Month: November 2021
Metroid Retrospective Part 2
The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace…
The Gentle Giants of Ganymede by James P. Hogan
The novel “The Gentle Giants of Ganymede” by James P. Hogan was published for the first time in 1978. It’s the second book of the Giants series following “Inherit the Stars“: these two novels are also included in the omnibus “The Two Moons”.
The spaceship Shapieron is on a mission in the Iscaris system when the star turns nova. The only choice is to leave as soon as possible but one of the on-board systems doesn’t work. The consequence is that once the interstellar propulsion is activated they’ll take a long time to slow down and in this case a long time means millions of years.
After the extraordinary discoveries obout the Lunarians and the subsequent ones on Ganymede that led to the theories about Minerva and the ancient civilizations who lived there, the research in the solar system continue. Things change radically when the presence of a spaceship that turns out to be Ganymean.
“The Gentle Giants of Ganymede” continues the story begun in “Inherit the Stars” and, after the prologue that starts the adventure of the spaceship Shapieron’s crew, this second novel begins with a summary of the first one. For this reason, in theory you can start reading from here but you’d lose a lot of information on the development of the scientific investigation that starts the Giants series.
“Inherit the Stars” was totally focused on the discovery of the Lunarians and the research conducted to solve the mystery of the existence of human beings who were traveling in space 50,000 years ago. In “The Gentle Giants of Ganymede” the tone is a bit different, meaning that it’s also the story of modern humans’ first contact with an alien species.
The encounter with the aliens called Ganymeans is peculiar because the spaceship Shapieron’s crew aren’t conducting a mission of exploration but are trying to return home. They were part of a scientific mission ended in a disaster with the result that outside of the Shapieron during the journey millions of years have passed.
Arrived in the solar system, the Ganymeans find a situation completely different from the one they knew with the Earth inhabited by a civilization alien to them. There are no traces of their species so they find themselves lost in space and time with a spaceship whose interstellar propulsion is malfunctioning and strange aliens as their only possible help.
On this basis, James P. Hogan builds a story that also aims to continue the one began in “Inherit the Stars”. At the end of the first novel, the scientists investigating the Lunarian mystery managed to find answers for the apparent contradictions among the data collected but there were still many questions waiting for answers.
In “The Gentle Giants of Ganymede” the meeting with the Ganymeans spacship Shapieron allows to get more information on the Earth’s prehistory and the ancient events that affect the solar system. At the same time the new investigation leads to more questions because the Ganymeans don’t know what happened in the last millions years.
From this point of view, “The Gentle Giants of Ganymede” is a variant of the first novel in the sense that the investigation about the Lunarians started thanks to the discovery of a 50,000 year-old skeleton on the moon but continues in the second novel, also including the Ganymeans.
Humans and Ganymeans work together by putting together information and resources to fill the holes in the reconstruction of the last twenty million years of the solar system’s history. However, it’s no longer just about an investigation into the past but also the search for a future by the Shapieron’s crew.
In “Inherit the Stars” the very limited character development wasn’t a problem because the novel was focused on the scientific investigation. In “The Gentle Giants of Ganymede” this flaw is more serious because the characters are more important. If James P. Hogan could’ve adequately described the sense of alienation of the Shapieron’s crew, lost in space and time, I think this novel would’ve been extraordinary. Unfortunately, the author didn’t do it.
Concerning the characters, James P. Hogan focuses on the differences between humans and Ganymeans rather than on individual personalities. In the end, the most developed character seems ZORAC, the spaceship Shapieron’s computer. Today we’d call it an artificial intelligence and its presence is crucial in the novel because it acts as a translator between humans and Ganymeans and gives humans a lot of information about its builders.
The story of the Shapieron’s crew and the interpersonal contacts between humans and Ganymeans give the story a bit of pace, however, it tends to be slow. I think that in the end the archaeological science fiction elements are the best part of “The Gentle Giants of Ganymede” and still make it a good novel. If you liked the first book of the Giants series I think you’ll appreciate this one too.
I have played Metroid Dread this week and it’s a really good game, but IT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL! Here’s why!
Near David Lam Park in Yaletown. Spring of 2020.
Albigensian Crusade – New World Encyclopedia
The Albigensian Crusade, or Cathar Crusade (1209–1229), was a twenty year military campaign initiated by the Roman Catholic Church to eliminate the heresy of the Cathars of Languedoc.
When Innocent III’s diplomatic and evangelical attempts to roll back Catharism met with limited success, he declared a crusade against Languedoc, offering lands belonging to the schismatics to any French nobleman willing to take up arms to defeat them. The violence led to France’s acquisition of lands with closer cultural and linguistic ties to Catalonia than France. An estimated one million people died during the crusade.
The Albigensian Crusade also had a role in the creation and institutionalization of both the Medieval Inquisition and the Dominican Order, which was created to combat this heresy. Although they succeeded in virtually wiping out the Cathar heresy, the crusade and the Inquisition that followed it represent a major blemish on the Catholic Church’s human rights record.
The Cathars were especially numerous in what is now western Mediterranean France, then part of the Crown of Aragon. They were also called Albigensians; this is either because of the movement’s presence in and around the city of Albi, or because of the 1176 Church Council held near Albi, which declared the Cathar doctrine heretical. Political control in Languedoc was divided among many local lords and town councils. Before the crusade, there was little fighting in the area, which had a fairly sophisticated polity.
The Roman Catholic Church had long dealt vigorously with strands of Christianity that it considered heretical. However, before the twelfth century, such groups in medieval Europe were organized in small numbers, around wayward preachers or small localized sects. The Cathars of Languedoc represented an alarmingly popular mass movement, a phenomenon that the Church had not countenanced for centuries. In the twelfth century, much of what is now Southern France was converting to Catharism, and the belief was spreading to other areas as well. The Cathars, along with other religious sects of the period such as the Waldensians, appeared in the cities and towns of newly urbanized areas. Although Cathar ideas had not originated in Languedoc, it was there that their theology found its most spectacular success.
On becoming Pope in 1198, Innocent III resolved to deal with the Cathars. He first tried peaceful conversion, but the preachers sent out to return the schismatics to the Roman communion met with little success. Even Saint Dominic succeeded in converting only a handful. The Cathar leadership was protected by powerful nobles, and also by some bishops, who resented papal authority in their sees. In 1204, the Pope suspended the authority of some of those bishops, appointing papal legates to act in his name. In 1206, he sought support for wider action against the Cathars from the nobles of Languedoc. Noblemen who supported Catharism were excommunicated.
The powerful count Raymond VI of Toulouse refused to assist and was excommunicated in May 1207. The pope called upon the French king, Philippe II, to act against those nobles who permitted Catharism, but Philippe declined to act. Count Raymond met with the papal legate, Pierre de Castelnau, in January 1208, and after an angry meeting, Castelnau was murdered the following day. The pope reacted to the murder by issuing a bull declaring a crusade against Languedoc, offering the land of the heretics as a reward for those who participated. This offer of land drew the northern French nobility into conflict with the nobles of the south.
The military campaigns of the Albigensian Crusade can be divided into several periods. The first, from 1209 to 1215, was a series of great successes for the crusaders in Languedoc. However, in the next phase, between 1215 and 1225, the captured lands were largely lost in a series of revolts and military reverses. The situation turned again following the intervention of the French king, Louis VIII, who joined the crusade in 1226. Although he died in November of that year, the struggle continued under King Louis IX. The area was reconquered by 1229, and the leading nobles made peace. After 1233, the Inquisition, under the leadership of the Domincan Order, was central to crushing what remained of Catharism. Resistance and occasional revolts continued, but Catharism’s days were numbered. Military action ceased in 1255.
In the end, the Albigensian Crusade is estimated to have killed 1 million people, not only Cathars but a significant portion of the general population of southern France.
Initial success 1209 to 1215
By mid 1209, after the murder of Innocent’s legate and the issuing of the pope’s bull declaring the crusade against the Cathars, around 10,000 crusaders had gathered in Lyon, before marching south. In June, Raymond of Toulouse, recognizing the disaster at hand, finally promised to act against the Cathars, and his excommunication was lifted. The crusaders turned towards Montpellier and the lands of Raymond-Roger de Trencavel, aiming for the Cathar communities around Albi and Carcassonne. Like Raymond of Toulouse, Raymond-Roger sought an accommodation with the crusaders, but he was refused a meeting and raced back to Carcassonne to prepare his defenses.
In July, the crusaders captured the small village of Servian and headed for Béziers, arriving on July 21. They surrounded the city, called the Catholics within to come out, and demanded that the Cathars surrender. Both groups refused to comply. The city fell the following day when an abortive sortie by the defenders was pursued back through the open city gates. The entire population, regardless of faith, was slaughtered, and the city was burned to the ground. Contemporary sources give estimates of the number of dead ranging between 7,000 to 20,000. The latter figure appears in the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury’s own report to the pope, in which he admits that no one was spared.
According to the Cistercian writer, Caesar of Heisterbach, one of the leaders of the crusader army, Arnaud-Amaury, when asked by a crusader how to distinguish the Cathars from the Catholics, answered: “Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”—”Kill them [all]! Surely the Lord discerns which [ones] are his.” On the other hand, the legate’s own statement, in a letter to the Pope in August 1209 (col.139), states:
While discussions were still going on with the barons about the release of those in the city who were deemed to be Catholics, the servants and other persons, of low degree and unarmed, attacked the city without waiting for orders from their leaders. To our amazement, crying “to arms, to arms!” within the space of two or three hours they crossed the ditches and the walls and Béziers was taken. Our men spared no one, irrespective of rank, sex, or age, and put to the sword almost 20,000 people. After this great slaughter the whole city was despoiled and burnt.
The news of the disaster at Béziers quickly spread and afterwards many settlements surrendered without a fight.
The next major target was Carcassonne. The city was well fortified, but vulnerable, and overflowing with refugees. The crusaders arrived on August 1, 1209. The siege did not last long. By August 7, the crusaders had cut the city’s water supply. Raymond-Roger sought negotiations but was taken prisoner while under truce, and Carcasonne surrendered on August 15. Its people were not killed, but were forced to leave the town—naked, according to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, “in their shifts and breeches” according to another source. Simon de Montfort now took charge of the crusader army, and was granted control of the area encompassing Carcassonne, Albi, and Béziers. After the fall of Carcassonne, other towns surrendered without a fight. Albi, Castelnaudary, Castres, Fanjeaux, Limoux, Lombers and Montréal all fell quickly during the autumn. However, some of the towns that had surrendered later revolted.
The next battle centered around Lastours and the adjacent castle of Cabaret. Attacked in December 1209, Pierre-Roger de Cabaret repulsed the assault. Fighting largely halted over the winter, but fresh crusaders arrived. In March 1210, Bram was captured after a short siege. In June, the well-fortified city of Minerve was besieged. It withstood a heavy bombardment, but in late June the main well was destroyed, and on July 22, the city surrendered. The Cathars of the city were given the opportunity to return to Catholicism. Most did so, but the 140 who refused were burned at the stake. In August, the crusade proceeded to the stronghold of Termes. Despite counter-attacks by the forces of Pierre-Roger de Cabaret, the siege held solid, and in December, the town fell. It was the last action of the year.
By the time operations resumed in 1211, the harsh actions of the crusaders had alienated several important lords, including Raymond de Toulouse, who had been excommunicated again. The crusaders returned in force to Lastours in March, and Pierre-Roger de Cabaret soon agreed to surrender. In May, the castle of Lord Aimery of Montréal, south of Carcassonne, was retaken; he and his senior knights were hanged, and several hundred Cathars were burned. Cassès and Montferrand both fell easily in early June, and the crusaders headed for Toulouse. The town was besieged, but for once the attackers were short of supplies and men, and so Simon de Montfort withdrew before the end of the month. Emboldened, Raymond de Toulouse led a force to attack Montfort’s forces at Castelnaudary in September. Castelnaudary fell and the forces of Raymond went on to liberate over 30 towns before the campaign ground to a halt at Lastours in the autumn. The following year much, of the province of Toulouse was recaptured by Catholic forces.
In 1213, forces led by King Peter II of Aragon, came to the aid of Toulouse against the crusaders. The force besieged Muret, but in September a sortie from the castle led to the death of King Peter, and his army fled. It was a serious blow for the resistance, and in 1214, the situation became worse: Raymond was forced to flee to England, and his lands were given by the Pope Innocent II to the victorious King Philippe II, who had by then joined the conflict. In November, the always active Simon de Montfort entered Périgord and easily captured the castles of Domme and Montfort. He also occupied Castlenaud and destroyed the fortifications of Beynac. In 1215, Castelnaud was recaptured by Montfort, and the crusaders entered Toulouse. Toulouse itself was then gifted to Montfort. In April 1216, he ceded his lands to Philippe.
Revolts and reverses 1216 to 1225
The resistance was far from finished, however. Raymond, together with his son, returned to the region in April, 1216 and soon raised a substantial force from disaffected towns. Beaucaire was besieged in May and fell after a three month siege. The efforts of Montfort to relieve the town were repulsed. Montfort then had to put down an uprising in Toulouse before heading west to capture Bigorre, but he was repulsed at Lourdes in December 1216. In September 1217, while Montfort was occupied in the Foix region, Raymond re-took Toulouse. Montfort hurried back, but his forces were insufficient to recapture the town before campaigning halted. Montfort renewed the siege in the spring of 1218. He was killed during this fighting in June.
Innocent III had died in July 1216. With his champion Montfort now dead, the crusade was left in temporary disarray. The command passed to the more cautious Philippe II, whose interests in putting down heresy lacked the zeal of Montfort. The crusaders took Belcaire and besieged Marmande in late 1218 under Amaury de Montfort, son of the late Simon. Marmande fell on June 3, 1219, but attempts to retake the major prize of Toulouse failed, and a number of Montfort strongholds also fell. In 1220, Castelnaudary was retaken from Montfort’s forces. Amaury de Montfort besieged the town in July 1220, but it withstood an eight-month trial.
In 1221, the success of Raymond and his son continued: Montréal and Fanjeaux were re-taken, and many Catholics were forced to flee. In 1222, Raymond died and was succeeded by his son, also named Raymond. In 1223, Philippe II died and was succeeded by Louis VIII. In 1224, Amaury de Montfort abandoned Carcassonne. The son of Raymond-Roger de Trencavel returned from exile to reclaim the area. Montfort offered his claim to the lands of Languedoc to Louis VIII, who accepted.
French royal intervention
In November 1225, the young Raymond, like his father, was excommunicated. Louis VIII himself headed the new crusade into the area in June 1226. Fortified towns and castles surrendered without resistance. However, Avignon, nominally under the rule of the German emperor, did resist, and it took a three-month siege to finally force its surrender that September.
Louis VIII died in November and was succeeded by the child king Louis IX. But Queen regent Blanche of Castile allowed the crusade to continue under Humbert de Beaujeu. Labécède fell in 1227, and Vareilles and Toulouse in 1228. However, Queen Blanche offered Raymond a treaty: Recognizing him as ruler of Toulouse in exchange for his fighting against Cathars, returning all Church property, turning over his castles, and destroying the defenses of Toulouse. Raymond agreed and signed the treaty at Meaux in April 1229. He was then seized, whipped, and briefly imprisoned.
Inquisition and final military actions
The Languedoc now was firmly under the control of the King of France, and the policy of dealing with the Cathars primarily through military means shifted toward wiping them out through persuasion and torture. The Inquisition was established in Toulouse in November 1229. Under Pope Gregory IX, the Inquisition, under the leadership of the new Dominican Order, was given great power to suppress the heresy.
A campaign started in 1233, burning vehement and relapsed Cathars wherever they were found, even exhuming some bodies for burning. Many still resisted, taking refuge in fortresses at Fenouillèdes and Montségur, or inciting small uprisings. In 1235, the Inquisition was forced out of Albi, Narbonne, and Toulouse. Raymond-Roger de Trencavel led a military campaign in 1240. He was defeated at Carcassonne in October, then besieged at Montréal. He soon surrendered and was exiled in Aragon. In 1242, Raymond of Toulouse attempted to revolt in conjunction with an English invasion, but the English were quickly repulsed and his support evaporated. He was subsequently pardoned by the French king.
The Cathar strongholds fell one by one. Montségur withstood a nine-month siege before being taken in March 1244. The final holdout, a small, isolated, overlooked fort at Quéribus, quickly fell in August 1255. The last known Cathar burning occurred in 1321.
The Nazis’ search for Atlantis and the Holy Grail
AS THE Nazis tightened their grip on Germany in the Thirties the leader of the SS attended a presentation in Berlin. Heinrich Himmler could barely contain his excitement as a young archaeologist spouted an outlandish theory. He claimed to know the location of the mythical city of Atlantis, where a master race had lived before their island paradise was engulfed by the sea. A handful of survivors escaped and roamed the far corners of the Earth, sowing the seeds of their civilisation.
For Himmler and his cronies it was the perfect solution. At the heart of the Nazi creed was the conviction that the Aryan race, from which true Germans were said to be descended, was superior to all others. Yet there was one huge stumbling block. No one had ever uncovered any temples, scriptures or artefacts to prove this ancient civilisation existed. But if they found the evidence the Nazis could establish their own religion to replace Christianity.
For the next decade Himmler led a shadowy project devoted to this bizarre theory. An SS unit called the Ahnenerbe (Ancestral Heritage), comprising archaeologists and scientists, scoured the globe hunting for proof of the lost Aryans of Atlantis. Also driving this secret mission, a Channel 5 documentary reveals tonight, was the lure of securing the greatest prize of all – the Holy Grail.
The work of the Ahnenerbe only came to light in 1945 when US soldiers uncovered thousands of files in a cave in central Germany. The contents were to shed light on why the Nazis started the Holocaust.
The archaeologist who unwittingly lit the touch paper was Herman Wirth, a scholar of ancient religions.
He believed the discovery of similar-looking symbols in different parts of the world was no coincidence.
Linking them was a single race, which had lived in Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between Portugal and Britain. Wirth proposed an expedition to prove that survivors from Atlantis had fled to high parts of the world, determined never again to be caught out by the sea. He was sure descendants were living in Tibet.
He found an enthusiastic sponsor in Himmler and in 1938 five SS scientists set off for the Himalayas.
Sir Richard Evans, a historian at Cambridge University, says: “The Nazis saw world history in terms of a struggle between races and survival of the fittest. They thought all races were inferior to the Aryans.
“Himmler wanted to press forward with a new religion, including sun worship and old gods. He wanted the SS to become a kind of cult, or Aryan aristocracy.”
IN the countdown to the Second World War all sorts of other expeditions, aimed at proving the Aryan theory, were launched. As well as Tibet, the SS scientists travelled to Sweden, Scotland, Iceland and France.
In Tibet the SS team set about studying the local people. Using a checklist of facial features they concluded that the Tibetans were descended from the Aryans. When members of the expedition arrived back in Munich a few weeks before the outbreak of war in 1939, they were treated like heroes.
“Hitler and his anthropologists thought that by measuring people’s heads you could tell which race they were,” adds Sir Richard. “What makes it so sinister is the idea of a racial hierarchy with the Aryans at the top. The Nazis viewed mixing races as a road to catastrophe.”
It’s claimed that this expedition, which Himmler believed proved the existence of Atlantis, also led to the liquidation of an entire race. He was convinced the study in the Himalayas also showed how the Aryan master race had been weakened after the survivors of Atlantis mixed with Tibetans. He became obsessed with racial purity and believed Jesus was descended from Aryan, not Jewish, stock.
Himmler also enlisted Otto Rahn, a historian, who was fascinated by the legend of King Arthur. Rahn was an eccentric who wore a black fedora hat and has been described as the Nazi Indiana Jones. He was certainly the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s hero and, like Indiana in the Last Crusade movie, was obsessed with finding the Holy Grail. Rahn’s research suggested that the last keepers of the Grail were the Cathars, who were wiped out in the 13th century.
Legend had it that the Grail, which is supposed to have been the cup or bowl used by Christ to consecrate the Last Supper and to have mystical powers, was spirited away and hidden in a cave.
Rahn studied the Arthurian stories for clues and concluded that the resting place was a ruined castle, Montsegur in the French Pyrenees. He had dedicated his life to uncovering the Grail but had run out of funds, until he was invited to meet Himmler in 1934. Rahn agreed to join the SS if the Nazis put up the cash to continue the search.
It is also claimed that Himmler made a wartime visit to another possible Grail location, Montserrat Abbey near Barcelona, in 1940.
Himmler believed that finding the Holy Grail would give him super-human powers and help Germany win the war. And so confident was he of finding it that he had prepared a castle, Wewelsburg in Westphalia, for its arrival. In the basement was an empty plinth where it would sit. Elsewhere, no stone was left unturned in the bid to prove that the Aryans had once ruled the world and the SS scientists of the Ahnenerbe had a vast budget.
When the Nazi war machine rolled eastwards to conquer the Soviet Union in 1941, the archaeologists were in their wake using slave labourers to dig up evidence of “German superior race-colonies” that inhabited the lands in the distant past. But the supposed success of the Tibet expedition was a rare breakthrough.
Himmler tired of Herman Wirth and he was fired while the hapless Otto Rahn suffered an even worse fate. Friends insist he was an honourable man who joined the SS only because it would allow him to continue his work. Realising that he had made a pact with the devil the 35-year-old tried to resign from the SS and effectively signed his own death warrant.
A furious Himmler, also frustrated by Rahn’s failure to deliver the Holy Grail, took his revenge by making him become a guard at one of the first concentration camps. One day Rahn took a handful of sleeping pills and walked into the Alps, where he sat down and froze to death.
Nazi Quest For The Holy Grail is on Channel 5 tonight at 9pm.
Truth and lies about Stalin – An exclusive interview with Grover Furr
On the ocassion of the 140th birth anniversary of Joseph Stalin we asked Professor Grover Furr to share with us his thoughts on some issues surrounding Stalin and the period of his leadership. Grover Furr, a Professor of medieval english literature at Montclair State University in New Jersey, is well-known for his research and writings on a vast range of issues about Soviet history. Some of his most famous books include “Khrushchev Lied”, “The Moscow Trials as Evidence”, Trotsky’s “Amalgams”, “The Mystery of the Katyn Massacre: The Evidence, The Solution” and others. The name of Grover Furr is included in the list of the “101 most dangerous academics in America”.
Many thanks to Professor Furr for his willingness to share his thoughts. You can find his personal website here: https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/
IDC: Sixty-five years after his death, the name of Joseph Stalin remains at the epicenter of anti-communism. The bourgeois historiography, as well as bourgeois political forces, continue the vilification of Stalin, calling him a “dictator”, a “bloodthirsty tyrant” who supposedly “killed tens of millions of people”. According to your view, why anti-communists still focus their attacks on Stalin and what are the major sources of their claims?
G.FURR: Defenders of capitalism need to depict communism as something horrible! So, in addition to hiding the horrors of capitalism- imperialism, they require a “boogeyman” to focus on as the epitome of the “evil” of communism. Stalin was the leader of the USSR and the world communist movement during the period of its greatest triumphs, and therefore of its greatest threat to capitalism. So Stalin would be a natural target in any case.
But there are at least two other factors. The first is Leon Trotsky, who lied about Stalin in virtually everything he wrote from 1928 until his murder in 1940. Trotsky’s post-1929 writings were the first major source of lies and slander against Stalin and the USSR. The second is Nikita Khrushchev. His “Secret Speech” of February 25, 1956 to the XX Party Congress was a devastating blow to the world communist movement. And it was an invaluable gift to the anticommunists of the world!
After the XXII Party Congress in October, 1961, when Khrushchev and his people attacked Stalin even more viciously, with even more lies, Khrushchev and the CPSU sponsored hundreds of books and articles attacking and lying about Stalin. Khrushchev also sponsored hundreds of books and articles attacking and lying about Lavrentii Beria, whose murder Khrushchev organized on June 26, 1953. Beria is not as significant a figure in Soviet history as is Stalin. But Khrushchev and his men slandered Beria at least as viciously, if not more viciously, as they did Stalin. And those who had been closest to Stalin – Molotov, Malenkov, Kaganovich – supported Khrushchev in this unprincipled attack upon and murder of Beria.
As a direct result of Khrushchev’s anti-Stalin campaign, approximately one-half of all communists in the world outside the socialist bloc quit their parties. Some of them literally walked across the street and joined the Trotskyist parties!
Concerning Khrushchev’s lies about Stalin and Soviet history, we must remember that very few people at the time recognized them as lies. And nobody could prove that they were lies because Khrushchev never published any evidence. Nor did Khrushchev, or his successors, allow even Party historians to see any primary documents in the archives. The lies by Khrushchev and his hundreds of writers were eagerly picked up by Western anticommunists and became the major source of anti-Stalin lies for all the anticommunist writers and “scholars” that followed him, right up to the present.
Some of these Khrushchev-era Soviet anticommunist works were published in the West and widely publicized by the capitalists. Such writers include Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Roy Medvedev, and Alexander Nekrich. Many works of Western “experts” on the USSR relied heavily on these Khrushchev-era falsehoods. Important examples are Robert Conquest’s works and the biography of Bukharin by American historian Stephen Cohen.
Under Brezhnev and his successors, Andropov and Chernenko, anti-Stalin books and articles were almost eliminated. Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders saw the great harm that Khrushchev and the Khrushchev-inspired works were doing to the Soviet Union and to the world communist movement. But it is important to point out that these post-Khrushchev leaders never repudiated Khrushchev’s lies about Stalin and the Stalin period. They could have done so. They and their researchers had access to all the evidence, all the archival documents, they we have today, plus much, much more. They knew, of course, that “Khrushchev lied” (the title of my first book). But they never corrected any of the Khrushchev-era lies.
This raises the question: Why did Khrushchev do what he did? Among the reasons, certainly, was the fact that Khrushchev and the rest of the Soviet Party leadership had abandoned any interest in communism. They were nationalists, in that they wanted a Soviet Union that was powerful economically, militarily, and politically. But they did not want to move the USSR in the direction of a more egalitarian, truly communist society. And Stalin did! Moving to the next stage towards communism was the theme of the 19th Party Congress in 1952. This is the ONLY Party Congress in the history of the USSR whose transcript was never published. There is much more to say about Stalin’s promotion of communism, as well as his failed attempts to make the Soviet Union more democratic, but there is no time or space to discuss these important issues now.
Within a year or so of becoming General Secretary of the CPSU Mikhail Gorbachev began a campaign of lies and slander about Stalin, and about Soviet history generally, that made even Khrushchev’s 1962-64 campaign look mild! Once again, hundreds of books and thousands of articles were written, attacking Stalin and the Stalin-era USSR as the site of monstrous crimes with Stalin as the chief criminal.
Once again, there was no evidence, only repetition of Khrushchev-era lies and the invention of even more lies. This anti-Stalin, anticommunist attack helped to prepare the way ideologically for the return to predatory capitalism. And to the dismantling of the Soviet Union. Because, once you have abandoned proletarian internationalism, who needs a multi-national, multi-ethnic state like the USSR?
Khrushchev-era and Gorbachev-era lies about Stalin and the Stalin-era USSR remain the main source of anticommunist propaganda the world over. These lies are very useful for capitalists and anticommunists to slander the idea of communism. So useful, that it is impossible for any historian to hold a job as a professor of Soviet history unless they accept Khrushchev-era, Gorbachev-era, and post-Gorbachev anticommunist lies, as the truth.
For example, it is forbidden to recognize that “Khrushchev lied” in the “Secret Speech,” although scholars of Soviet history know very well that Khrushchev did lie. But to admit that, and then to go on to admit that Khrushchev’s people all lied, and that Gorbachev and his people also lied, would be to dismantle, to tear down, to reject all the anticommunist historiography of at least 3 generations of “scholars.” And that is forbidden. These lies have been, and continue to be, far too useful to the anticommunists and capitalists to abandon them just because they are false!
Trotsky lied too, of course. Few people paid any attention to him until Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech.” Then Trotsky seemed like a “prophet”, like “the only true communist,” as he and his followers had always claimed. Only after Khrushchev’s speech was Trotskyism reborn. Trotskyism can only continue to exist by promoting anti-Stalin and anticommunist lies! So today Trotskyists push all the anti-Stalin lies – those of Trotsky, of Khrushchev, of the Khrushchev-era writers, of the Western anticommunists like Conquest, Robert Tucker, and so many others, of Gorbachev and the Gorby-era writers, and of the post-Gorby post-Soviet anticommunist liars like Oleg Khlevniuk, Jörg Baberowski, Nicolas Werth, Andrea Graziosi, and Timothy Snyder, to name a few that are well-known in Europe.
Trotskyism has some credibility among persons who look towards Marxism and communism for liberation from capitalism but who have deeply imbibed the anti-Stalin lies that have been promoted everywhere since 1956. So Trotskyism is an important force. But Trotskyism is based solely upon falsehoods. And Trotskyism is a true “cult.” No criticism of the “great leader” is permitted.
I have written about Khrushchev’s lies (Khrushchev Lied), about Trotsky’s lies (Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’), about the lies of anticommunists like Timothy Snyder (Blood Lies), about the lies of Western anticommunists like, for example, Stephen Cohen (article on my web page). In early 2019 I will publish a book on the lies in Stephen Kotkin’s Stalin. Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941, a prize-winning book of 1140+ pages published in October, 2017. Kotkin, a professor at Princeton University and fellow of the Hoover Institution, has spent his entire professional life studying the Stalin-era Soviet Union. And everything he says about Stalin and the events of the 1930s in the USSR is demonstrably, provably, false!
One obvious conclusion is that no anticommunist, from Trotsky to Khrushchev to the more learned, most recent anticommunist “experts,” can identify a single genuine crime that Stalin committed. There weren’t any! We can say that with confidence because, if there were any such crimes, these devoted anticommunist scholars certainly would have uncovered them and shouted them to the world. But they haven’t found any real crimes! So they have to lie, fabricate, falsify..
Late in 2019 I will publish my third book on Trotsky and his lies. I will also have more evidence about Trotsky’s collaboration with the Nazis and the Japanese fascists. This will provide more evidence to add to the evidence in my 2017 book Leon Trotsky’s Collaboration with Germany and Japan.
IDC: One of the frequent arguments used against Stalin is that he “formed an alliance with Hitler’s Germany”, referring to the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact signed on August 23, 1939. This claim consists one of the pillars of the reactionary theory of the “two extremes” which tries to equate communism with Nazism and fascism. What is the historical truth behind the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact?
G.FURR: I discuss all this in detail, with all documentation, in Chapters 7 and 8 of my book Blood Lies. I also discuss it in considerable detail in my online article “Did the Soviet Union Invade Poland in September 1939? NO!” which is available at https://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/research/mlg09/did_ussr_invade_poland.html
The USSR tried to form an alliance – a mutual defense treaty against Nazi Germany – with Great Britain, France, and Poland. Negotiations came to a head in August, 1939, when British and French representatives went to Moscow for talks. But the British and French representatives had no authority to sign any agreement. The Polish government refused to even consider permitting Soviet forces on Polish soil – the only way the Red Army could have attacked Germany.
So it was clear to the Soviets that Great Britain and France did not really want a treaty of collective security that would bind them all to attack Nazi Germany if Germany attacked any of them (Poland being the most obvious German target). Britain and France were using the talks to put pressure on Germany, with which they really wanted some agreement. This was consistent with their diplomacy during the previous several years, especially the Munich Agreement, in which Britain and France gave part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler without even asking the Czech government.
The British and French wanted to encourage Hitler to attack the USSR. But that meant allowing Germany to defeat Poland, since Germany had no border with the USSR. And that is in fact what Great Britain and France did. They signed a mutual defense treaty with Poland, but refused to attack Germany even when Poland was being soundly defeated in the first few days after the German invasion.
When the Polish state collapsed the Red Army occupied Eastern Poland. But “eastern Poland” had been part of Soviet Russia – the western halves of Belorussia and Ukraine — until the imperialist Polish government took it by force in the Russo-Polish War of 1919-1921. Poles were never a majority of the population. Even the reactionary post-Soviet Polish regime does not claim these lands today.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was not an “alliance.” It was a non-aggression pact between the USSR and Germany. It contained a secret clause in which Hitler recognized a Soviet sphere of influence in the Eastern part of Poland, the Baltic states, and Finland. This kept the German army hundreds of kilometers away from the Soviet frontier. When Hitler did invade the USSR, this extra distance that the German army had to travel saved Moscow and Leningrad from being captured and destroyed.
IDC: It is known that you have extensively researched the case of the “Katyn massacre” which according to bourgeois historiography was a crime committed by the Soviet Union. In an official statement issued in April 1990, Gorbachev’s administration expressed “profound regret over the Katyn tragedy,” calling it “one of the gravest crimes of Stalinism”. A number of Russian declassified “state documents” have been presented as evidence of Stalin’s supposed guilt over the Katyn mass murders. Summarizing your research findings, who is the real culprit of the Katyn massacre and what are the key points of the whole story?
G.FURR: The Germans killed the Poles. The evidence simply will not permit any other conclusion.
In late 1991 Gorbachev handed over to Yeltsin the documents you mention, from what is called “Closed Packet No. 1.” These documents, if genuine, would prove Soviet guilt in the Katyn massacre. But in 2010 Viktor Iliukhin, a Duma (= Russian parliament) member from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, presented to the public strong evidence that the “Closed Packet No. 1” documents were forgeries.
In 2012 a report by a Polish archeologist, summarizing the results of a joint Polish-Ukrainian excavation at a mass murder site in Volodymyr-Volyns’kiy, Ukraine, stated that the badge of a Polish policeman had been found in the mass grave. This policeman is one of those Poles said to have been killed by the Soviets in the spring of 1940 and buried near Tver’ (formerly Kalinin), hundreds of kilometers away. The year before this report was issued the badge of another Polish policeman, also supposedly killed by the Soviets at Tver’ in the spring of 1940, had also been discovered in the same mass grave. The Polish and Ukrainian media discussed this, though that discovery was kept out of the Polish archeologist’s report. The Polish report also stated that the victims in this mass grave had unquestionably been killed by the Germans in 1941.
But the Ukrainian archeologist’s report did not mention either the badges of the supposed Katyn victims that had been found, or the evidence that the persons shot there had been killed by the Germans, not the Soviets. One Ukrainian archeologist even said that it was a mistake for the Polish archeologist to mention these things, since doing so could “cast doubt” on the Katyn massacre.
In 2013 I wrote and published an article about these discoveries. By themselves they cast the strongest doubt on Soviet guilt at Katyn. But I knew that I would have to do more. Between 2015 and 2018 I did a full-scale research project on Katyn. I decided to approach Katyn as a mystery – without any preconceived idea about which side, the Germans or the Soviets, is guilty. In my book The Mystery of the Katyn Massacre: The Evidence, The Solution, published in July, 2018, I identify and study all the evidence that cannot possibly have been faked. The result is as unmistakable as it is surprising. ALL of the evidence that is of unquestionable validity – the evidence that cannot possibly have been faked — points to German guilt. NONE of it points to Soviet guilt.
Naturally, this conclusion is “unacceptable,” “taboo.” I have already received a good deal of harassment from Polish nationalists, as well as from academic experts in the field of Soviet history. It is simply unacceptable to conclude that the Soviets were not guilty – and to hell with the evidence!
The Katyn Massacre is the best documented “crime of Stalin.” And it is a lie!
IDC: The “Moscow trials” are regarded by bourgeois historians as frame-ups of innocent defendants and that Stalin had fabricated the charges. What is the truth? Were the defendants (Trotskyites, Zinovievites, “Bloc of Rights,” etc.) actually innocent?
G.FURR: There has never been any evidence that the Moscow Trials, plus the Tukhachevsky Affair trial of June, 1937, were “frame-ups,” the defendants tortured, threatened, etc., to make false confessions.
In the first 12 chapters of my book Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’ (2015). I check – verify, to prove or disprove – as many of the statements made by the defendants at the Moscow trials as I could. Earlier in 2018 I published an updated version of this research as a separate book, The Moscow Trials As Evidence. We have overwhelming evidence that the defendants in the Moscow Trials were indeed guilty of at least those crimes to which they confessed. In fact, in some cases – e.g. that of Nikolai Bukharin – we now know that the defendants were guilty of crimes to which they never confessed.
We also have a lot of evidence now that confirms that Leon Trotsky was indeed collaborating with Nazi Germany and fascist Japan, as accused in the Moscow Trials.
IDC: The late Italian Marxist Domenico Losurdo wrote that “there were two turning points that have determined the contemporary view of Stalin: the outbreak of the Cold War in 1947 and the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU”. Do you agree with this statement and if so, why these two points are significant in shaping the world’s view on Stalin?
G.FURR: I agree with Professor Losurdo, whose death is a great loss for those of us who search for the truth about world history and the history of the communist movement of the 20th century.
Looking back on it, the Cold War was inevitable. However, it did not seem inevitable to many in the communist movement. Once it began, all the anti-Stalin, anticommunist propaganda got under way very quickly.
IDC: How would you evaluate Joseph Stalin’s overall contribution to the construction of Socialism in the Soviet Union?
G.FURR: Under Stalin’s leadership the Soviet Union built a socialist society. Fascism was defeated. The international communist movement spread the ideas of Marxism-Leninism and of communism all over the world. Imperialism was dealt a death blow, often under the leadership of communist parties, always with their dedicated help.
But Soviet socialism did not evolved steadily in the direction of communism, even though that is precisely what Stalin wanted and what he believed would happen. Instead, at the time of his death on March 5, 1953, Stalin was politically isolated in the leadership of the CPSU.
The march towards communism was abandoned. Khrushchev replaced the idea that violent revolution was needed to get rid of capitalism, with the false notion of “victory in peaceful competition with capitalism.” Elections, rather than revolution, were to bring communist victories. This meant turning away from the working class as the essential leading force of history, for there were never enough workers to win elections, though the working class was, and still is, able to shut down capitalist production and, if organized by a revolutionary party, make a revolution, overthrow capitalism, and seize state power.
Under Stalin’s leadership the Soviet Union brought Lenin’s concept of socialism into being. That means that Lenin’s, and Stalin’s, concept of socialism has fatal flaws.
My research strongly suggests that the Lenin-Stalin concept of socialism retained far too much of the concept of socialism that was developed by the Second International before World War I. That concept of socialism was a confused one. On the one hand, “socialism” meant capitalism with a strong working-class movement, based in trade unions, politically powerful enough to force capitalist governments to grant very significant reforms to make the lives of workers more bearable: higher wages and the whole range of social welfare benefits.
On the other hand, “socialism” came to mean a fully industrialized society in which capitalism had been overthrown and political power was held by the working class through the mediation of a communist party. Private property in the means of production would be abolished. A mechanism – the Councils (in Russian, soviety) would run the society in the interest of the working class. Workers and peasants, not the capitalists, would be privileged. This is the Leninist idea of socialism.
But in this concept of socialism, the relations of production remained very similar to what they had been under capitalism. Money – income – still determined the distribution of goods and services. It was not possible to amass private wealth, and workers and peasants still enjoyed vastly more social welfare benefits than in any capitalist state.
However, capitalist relations of production, the continued differential between city and country, manual and mental labor, and men and women, persisted. These forces proved more powerful than the political will to push towards more and more egalitarianism, towards the realization of a communist society.
The history of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s time is a vast storehouse of lessons, a “book” that we can and must study, in order to learn the lessons, both positive and – in the end – negative, of the world communist movement of the 20th century.
We must learn to imitate what the Soviets and, under their leadership, the Comintern forces did that was correct, heroic, pointing towards a communist future. And we must learn to distinguish what they did that was mistaken, incorrect, that gradually turned the Soviet Union and the world communist movement away from the development towards communism and back towards predatory capitalism.
Thanks to the world-shaking efforts of the communists of the 20th century, especially during the period of Stalin’s leadership, we have this magnificent legacy to study. We can be “dwarves sitting on the shoulders of giants,” able to see farther than they did, thanks to their experience, though we are very far from being their equal in dedication and efforts towards that better communist future of equality and liberty to which all humankind is striving.
“Judeo-Bolshevism” conspiracy theory Debunked
Killing Two Capitalist Myths
There is a widespread popular myth that the capitalists are entitled to their compensation, as well as the value of other peoples’ labor, simply because they take “risks” or because they come up with original ideas for production of goods. A second popular myth is that we cannot criticize capitalism as a system, because capitalism has made our modern lifestyle possible. In other words, capitalism has provided us with consumer goods, should all just shut up and stop complaining. These are not ideas exclusive only to radical libertarians or Austrian School advocates; they are far more commonly accepted even by people who admit that there are many problems with the capitalist system.
The Theory of “Original Risk”
First, let’s look at this matter of “risk.” Who takes more risks—the worker or the capitalist? The capitalist is someone who has capital, at least enough to invest in some industry or business. After all, this is what we are speaking of when we speak about capitalists taking risks—they invest in some business or industry with the hopes of getting a high return on their investment. Recent events have shown us how wonderfully this system works, but let’s ignore that for a moment. What happens when the capitalist takes a risk and loses? Most likely, he/she will not lose everything unless they have been very foolish with their money and careless with their investments. Even if that should happen, what is the absolute worst that could occur? They will have to work for a living, like everyone else. How dreadful!
Now what about the worker’s risk? The worker is already forced into a life-or-death situation, as working people have no means of subsistence other than their ability to work. They are forced by necessity to work for the capitalist by his or her conditions in order to be paid money to live. Thus for many men, women and even underage children, the worker may often be risking physical injury, disease or death. Millions of workers worldwide are forced to risk their health and life by working long hours under extremely dangerous conditions such as exposure to toxic fumes, heavy machinery, unsafe structures and so on.
As if that wasn’t enough, the worker is also taking a risk when they trust that the company they work for isn’t going to go belly-up within a short time, putting them back out on the street. This is especially devastating in these days when unemployment is very high. Workers may have to relocate and disrupt their lives just to find a decent job. When they are laid off soon after relocating, all their plans are shattered. The capitalist by stark contrast, risks at most being reduced to the state of the worker. Clearly, the worker risks far more, and yet their compensation is far less than that of the capitalist, thus dispelling the idea that risk entitles one to wealth.
Capital, in a capitalist system, is generally accumulated via surplus value; that is the exploitation of workers’ labor. Moreover, what about those capitalists who make wise investments, searching for investments which will guarantee profitable returns? Should they be penalized or taxed in some way for not making risky investments? But how are investments risky when the richest capitalists can trust the governments they control to bail them out if they should fail? Those banks and companies which invested their money weren’t risking anything at all, since the government promptly compensated them for their failure at the expense of the public.
“Capitalism Has Given You All This!”
Now for the next item on the chopping block. In discussions about capitalism, we have heard many times the argument that reduces anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism to complaining: “You complain so much about capitalism, but capitalism is why you have a computer, phones, toasters, clothes…” and so on and so forth.
This argument essentially says that we have no right to be anti-capitalist because, presumably, capitalism is providing a better standard of living. There are many flaws with this argument. Foremost is the fact that capitalism is not providing such a wonderful lifestyle for the majority of the world’s population. More than half the world’s population—about 3 billion people—currently lives on less than a few dollars a day. Imagine if we were to suggest that African-Americans had no right to complain about the system of segregation and Jim Crow laws in the South simply because they had it worse under slavery. Slavery was objectively worse, as feudalism is objectively worse than capitalism, but that does not mean that the post-slavery society of the South should be beyond reproach. As well, this logic must also mean that because of the inventions that feudalism gave us, which we still use to this day, we must not criticize the feudal system of serfs, kings and lords.
We must also consider that in many countries which formerly had socialist systems, including revisionist market-socialist systems, the standard of living has dropped, often quite dramatically, with frightening consequences for many populations. It’s easy to look at modern-day Eastern European cities, note the people carrying expensive cell phones, the internet cafes, and the modern clubs and restaurants and conclude that this is an improvement over the late “socialist” societies which previously existed here. However, let us be honest—many of the innovations that make these societies bearable today did not exist even in capitalist societies in the last days of the USSR and Eastern Bloc, such as our wonderful modern cell phones.
These countries now import many luxuries and consumer goods that are out of reach for most of the world population. Not to mention that many people in the West acquired their homes, cars, and other luxury consumer goods through credit, and now we can all see the results of that scheme.
In Moscow, people work ridiculously long hours just to get a piece of that capitalist pie, to the point where many people will tell you that they have virtually no time for recreation. By contrast, the socialist government, even in the corrupt, revisionist post-Khrushchev era made it a point to ensure that workers had access to recreation and cultural facilities, and provided workers with the means to develop their various talents. When we look at the negative aspects of full capitalist restoration, such as plunging birthrates, migration, corruption, drug addiction, shortened life-spans, ethnic violence, sex slavery, and a failing social welfare system, it is clear that while it can be said that Western capitalist countries had a higher-standard of living compared to the socialist bloc countries, the standard of living in these countries today is in many ways worse.
So much worse in fact, that a number of articles from sources including The Wall Street Journal and the AFP report that recent polls show a growing discontent with capitalism and a rising opinion that life under “communism” was in many ways better. So to say that capitalism has provided us a much better world today is clearly dishonest as it has also provided a much worse standard of living for many people.
Now if we consider the argument that we should be grateful that capitalism has produced everything we use today, we see that it is also illogical on the grounds that capitalism has been the dominant system for several hundred years, and it has had time to develop unlike the first attempts at building socialism. To say that we can’t criticize capitalism because we depend on it today would be like attacking capitalism from a feudal perspective, pointing out that capitalism could not have accomplished anything without feudalism. How can the pro-capitalist sing the praises of capitalist innovation when so much of that innovation is based on previous technology, in turn based on previous scientific knowledge and methodology, all dating back centuries, even thousands of years in some cases, developed by societies which existed long before the development of capitalism and the money-based economy. Does capitalism owe a debt to the theocratic Islamic Caliphate, under which a great deal of crucial inventions and scientific advances were made? Try that argument next time a capitalist apologist tells you to thank capitalism.
Class Nature & Origin of these Arguments
These myths persist like urban legends. They are often the products of various think tanks and right-wing organizations who bankroll the books, television, and radio programs of pundits whose job is to convince working class people to align with the businessmen at the top, rather than consider their own interests.
Because there is an inherent contradiction between these two classes, in that what benefits one class necessarily comes at the expense of the other, the apologists for capitalism have little choice but to resort to illogical arguments in favor of capitalism. No wonder that right-wing punditry seems to prefer focusing on social issues, creating false outrages every week, and generally relying mainly on emotional appeals, especially fear.
Explaining that a capitalist deserves to profit off of others’ labor because he allegedly takes a risk simply does not stand up to scrutiny. Thus, the right today seems far more interested in convincing our fellow workers that they are in danger of a Marxist dictatorship, being taken over by “illegal aliens,” that their religion is under attack, and so forth. We must obviously engage and expose these lies, since if we attack the foundations of those myths which are used to justify capitalism in the eyes of the worker, it can only help towards building class consciousness. When class consciousness becomes strong enough, and the working class is fully aware of their class interests, all the whining, fear-mongering, and conspiracies of a thousand Glenn Becks will be able to throw the working class off their course toward revolution.