Staunton, January 30 – Poles and people of good will around the world have been horrified by Moscow commentator Yevgeny Satanovsky’s suggestion last week that Stalin had “the complete right” to murder 13,000 Polish officers at Katyn because of “military and political considerations.”
Fortunately, Aleksandr Tsipko of the Moscow Institute of Economics says, Vladimir Putin not long ago took a different position. The Kremlin leader denounced Katyn as “one of ‘the crimes of the totalitarian regime’ of the Stalinist era” (mk.ru/politics/2020/01/30/mozhno-li-ubivat-lyudey-po-politicheskim-soobrazheniyam.html).
The Poles were killed, the senior commentator says, for exactly the same reasons Lenin and Trotsky “killed at the beginning of the 1920s the reactionary Orthodox clergy and Stalin at the end of the 1930s murdered hundreds of thousands of USSR citizen which just like the Polish hostages at Katyn were ‘died in the wool and incorrigible enemies of Soviet power.”
“In my view,” Tsipko says, “the crime at Katyn reflectd not so much military considerations” – the Polish army had fought the Germans not the Soviets – as the state ideology of the USSR, the ideology of Marxism-Leninism.” When the Polish officers wouldn’t become Soviet loyalists, there was nothing for Stalin and Beria except to murder them.
They were thus killed “not so much from the point of view of the interests of the state than from the pint of view of the interests of expanding the world of socialism, from the point of view of the opportunity to export the revolution and the Soviet system onto territories which we had freed from the Hitlerite army, Tsipko says.
That was true in 1944-1945 when the Soviet military moved West; it was true in 1939-1940 when it joined up with Hitler’s forces over the carcass of Poland, the result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Tsipko says that it is important to understand this because “if an intellectual remains loyal to the ideals of communism and October, then he is required as Yevgeny Satanovsky to recognize Stalin’s right to murder all those who are either enemies of the ideas of communism or its potential opponents.”
According to the commentator, “Katyn must be considered not in the context of the conflict between Russia and Poland but rather in the context of the continuation of the Great Terror of the end of the 1930s directed at the strengthening of the socialist idea on the territories controlled by the USSR.”
Satanovsky is completely part of this tradition and is thus “more consistent and more honest” than those like Viktor Shenderovich “who try to combine in the souls two incompatible things … love for the values of October … and hatred for Stalin.” But the tradition Satanovsky upholds must be denounced for what it defends.
Those who defend what he defends “must know,” Tsipko says, “that by justifying the repressions of the Bolsheviks toward dissidents and class enemies we sometimes tangentially and at times without recognizing it begin to justify the crimes of Hitler.”
As the great Russian philosopher Sergey Bulgakov wrote in early 1940, “there is no real difference between ethnic and class racism. One can kill children as the Hitlerites did in the gas ovens of Auschwitz but one can also kill children as Stalin did by exiling them together with their parents to frozen Siberia.”
According to Tsipko, “the recent position of Vladimir Putin who condemned Katyn as ‘a crime of a totalitarian regime’ provides more for the spiritual development of Russia than the present position of Ye. Satanovsky who justifies the tragedy of Katyn, the murder of more than 13,000 people out of so-called ‘ideological considerations.”
“Our present-day patriotism which blurs the distinction between good and evil and which leads to the justification of undoubted crimes of the Stalinist era will bring us nothing besides harm,” the Moscow commentator continues. And he advises those who remain loyal to the ideals of October to study just how Mussolini and Hitler came to power.
“One must not forget that Mussolini in Italy was given power because of the fear that together with the Italian communists would come to power an Italian Dzerzhinsky together with an Italian Cheka. And one must not forget that Hitler was given power because of fears that Ernst Thalman, supported by Third International would transform Germany into a second USSR.”