David R. Henderson  

Raico on the Lop-Sided Treatment of Mass Murderers

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Pointing to Communist crimes is not meant to "trivialize" the destruction of European Jewry, nor can it do so. The massacre of the Jews was one of the worst things that ever happened. But even supposing that it was the worst thing that ever happened, couldn't some arrangement be worked out whereby Communist mass-murders are mentioned once for every ten times (or hundred times?) the Holocaust is brought up? Perhaps also, if we must have publicly-financed museums commemorating the foreign victims of foreign regimes, some memorial to the victims of Communism might be considered, not on the Mall itself, of course, but maybe in a low-rent area of Washington?
This is from Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, by historian Ralph Raico, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010, pp. 162-163. I read through almost the whole thing this morning. This is Raico at his best, although, I admit, I've never read anything by him that wasn't good. The book is available to all here. The book's title reminds me of the famous quote from Lord Acton: "Great men are almost always bad men." Raico's analysis of Winston Churchill is eye-popping.

UPDATE: Ralph Raico replies below to some of the commenters.


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COMMENTS (10 to date)
Eric Falkenstein writes:

Yeah, it kills me that Lincoln gets such a big reputation, mainly because he won a war. What about those that avoid wars? Not every country had a war to get rid of slavery.

Similarly, FDR created lots of things directly, their cost spread out across millions. Coolidge, meanwhile, left people alone and probably presided over a greater increase in aggregate wealth. Who gets remembered better?

Hyena writes:

Mr. Falkenstein,

*ahem* Nobel Peace Prizes?

And Calvin Coolidge would like object to much fuss being made over him.

Prof. Henderson,

Such a monument exists in Washington, D.C.: the Victims of Communism Memorial. And there's another in the Czech Republic. I suspect there are actually quite a lot of them, dating from the period of 1985-1992 as the Soviet Bloc collapsed.

You don't find them here because, frankly, there is no constituency for it outside of ideologues. The Holocaust gets ample treatment because we were home to a lot of Jews which fled the Nazis and to families who lost entire branches to them.

Salem writes:

I think the piece on Churchill is shoddy. Take one example, "Churchill’s
obdurate refusal even to listen to peace terms in 1940," which is supposed to have had all these negative consequences. The author neglects to mention that this issue was discussed in the War Cabinet at the time. The minutes have Halifax suggesting that they put out peace feelers to Germany (in fact Halifax was already doing so, via the Swiss embassy in Paris), while Churchill points out that negotiating for peace is itself risky, because it will create an expectation of peace in the public that will sap the war spirit, and that satisfactory peace terms will be impossible to achieve, because the Germans would inevitably insist on the destruction of most of the British Navy under the pretext of disarmament, which would leave more Britain vulnerable to invasion in future. Churchill's point was that Britain was safer by continuing the war than by being open to peace, and the Cabinet backed him on the issue. We cannot know who was right, but not only was Churchill's position a reasonable one, this was a decision properly taken by Cabinet, not one man's "obduracy."

And then there's the stuff condemning him for bringing the USA into WW1 and WW2, which is surely a joke. Churchill's responsibility was to Britain, not the cause of American isolationism.

Darf Ferrara writes:

The argument could be made that communist atrocities were over-represented relative to others during the cold war (at least in news reporting). The Manufacturing of Consent by Noam Chomsky makes that case at least.

Andy Hallman writes:

As Hyena points out, there already is such a memorial to the victims of communism in that very city, and it was dedicated three years prior to the publication of Raico's book.

And what is the purpose of such a memorial anyway?

The memorial is not to people who were killed because of their beliefs or because they engaged in political demonstrations. It is not for all the victims of torture, or all the victims of state-sponsored violence. Those are memorials I would support. That is not what this memorial is about. It is for people with nothing in common other than that they were victims of nominally communist governments.

To me, it would be like having a memorial specifically for the victims of white racism, or for those of French imperialism. The scope of the memorial is clearly political and is not intended to teach a general moral principal.

Hyena writes:

Mr. Hallman,

Absolutely, that's why I note that these have no constituency beyond ideologues. What I think would be an interesting memorial, since you're interested in large generalities, is to the victims of good intentions. If we believe Jane Jacobs, however, we've been building these for quite some time.

ThomasL writes:

@Salem

A highly analogous situation arose just as WWII ended, as Churchill "obdurately" refused any terms with the Russians that did not lead to a free and independent Poland, or that unfairly partitioned resources in Germany (thinking that an imbalance would eventually lead to another war).

The peace advocates of the UK Labour party and the US State Dept. thought he was just stubborn, a "warmonger," and generally gumming the works for everyone, and were thrilled when he was voted out (and Labour in) just as negotiations among the major powers were beginning.

Those advocates got their way, the USSR got all that it wanted, and Poland and most of Eastern Europe got the privilege of living under Communism for the better part of fifty years.

If Raico got his way, most of Western Europe and North Africa would have gotten the similarly wonderful privilege of spending a good chunk of the twentieth century ruled by Nazis.

I'm not one to advocate war to liberate people wherever one thinks they are being oppressed, but it is plainly ridiculous to act like the choice was between peace and love on the one hand (totally overlooking the millions of people condemned to decades of fascist Nazi rule) and warmongering and hate on the other (with the byproduct of freeing a decent chunk of the world's population from a horrible tyranny and oppression). Add to that that Hitler was a demonstrated and repeated liar in all his international agreements--including those with the UK--and the case for striking a deal with him gets even weaker.

There is an adage about making a deal with the devil--if that applies anywhere at all in this life, this would be it.

Ralph Raico writes:

I see that my comment on the lop-sided treatment of communism and Nazism has generated some replies.
To Hyena: there's a very large museum dedicated to the Holocaust in Washington; the memorial you refer to is just a statue of a single female, symbolizing something or other. I consider that an instance of lop-sidedness.
To Salem: the idea that Hitler would have insisted on the destruction of the British Navy as a condition of peace is ridiculous. Even after the fall of France, Vichy was allowed to keep its navy, which it sent to Toulon and later scuttled when there was the threat of a Nazi seizure. Churchill obdurately overruled the qualms of Halifax about negotiations with Germany, and got his way. Of course, the British rulers' obligation was to the interests of their own country, as they perceived them. My objection is to the British machinations in embroiling the American Republic in two world wars; when the U.S. got in in 1941, Churchill boasted in the Commons that that had been the goal he'd been working for for years. The role of the anglophile Wilson administration in our entry into the First World War led the secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, to resign in protest. Salem should read up on this well known history.
To ThomasL: Churchill's standing up the the Soviets at the end of the war came a bit too late, mere posturing, since he could do nothing about it. He had proclaimed that the destruction of Germany (not just of the Nazis) was his sole aim. Thus his openly confessed admiration during the war for Stalin, in private as well as in public. This brilliant statesman did not realize that the annihilation of Germany as a factor in European politics entailed...certain consequences. As for the Nazi rule over Europe and North Africa, that is a sad undervaluation of the Red Army.
The cause of "isolationism" was the cause of the American people.

Tom Chambers writes:

I skimmed the Churchill essay briefly, and while my independent knowledge is more or less confined to naval history, my sense was that Mr. Raico mis-represented some naval affairs. Churchill was far from faultless; indeed the Royal Navy would have done better without his micro-managing; but Mr. Raico imputes only a Churchillian desire of war-mongering for some RN moves that would probably have happened much the same without him.

ThomasL writes:

@Raico

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I still do not agree with your conclusions, but I appreciate that you took the time to discuss them with us.

In reply to your reply... I would not call the consequences of losing Eastern Europe to the Soviets an inevitable "entailment" of resisting Hitler, or Churchill's efforts to prevent that outcome as mere "posturing". To whom? Certainly neither Stalin nor Truman were interested or impressed. Neither was the British electorate. He lost the election, and so the ability to complete negotiations in Potsdam, but I have no doubt he intended to press his positions to the full extent of his influence. He had done so in the past, but found an almost entirely deaf ear in the US. By Potsdam it was already quite late, but not impossibly late, to resist Stalin.

I understand your dislike for Stalin, and that you question that Churchill should ever have been on businesslike terms with such a man for some time (his stated admiration was largely for Stalin's capacity and ability, not his character). You would, apparently, have preferred he maintain icy terms with Stalin but cultivate warmer ones with Hitler? I cannot follow that logic.

The blame for ceding Eastern Europe to Stalin I would place much more firmly on US shoulders than on inevitably "entailed consequences" of having pursued the fight against Hitler.

Regarding Europe and North Africa. It is certainly likely Hitler would have attacked Russia regardless of Britain's entry into the war, but I cannot fathom Stalin sending troops so far as North Africa. Germany and Russia, without the US or Britain, would have been strongly matched. I doubt that Hitler could have conquered Russia (he obviously disagreed...), but I even more strongly doubt the vision of the Red Army sweeping Hitler away as it crossed Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and North Africa unsupported. The USSR was never that strong--it was all Russia could do to hold back German advances until the Second Front was opened.

Would you truly have even advocated for it? Had Hitler attacked Russia and been beaten back out of USSR territory, would you have truly advocated for Stalin to press forward until his armies had taken all Nazi-occupied Europe and North Africa? I rather suspect that you would not have.

It might be said that they would have utterly destroyed each other leaving Europe free. I think it far more likely they would have fought each other to a stalemate, leaving Europe in tatters but tyrannized. In any case, neither view can be confirmed.

Returning to the charge of posturing, I've included a lot of cables written at the time, from which I think one must either take Churchill at his word, that he is concerned about Stalin's ambitions, and wants to prevent the Soviets from occuping large portions of Eastern Europe, or conclude that he annoying Truman and Eden simply as some status seeking exercise (ie, posturing). I can see no clear status he would expect to gained from this, but perhaps you can.

12 May 45 [President Truman, I] am profoundly concerned about the European situation. I learn that half the American Air Force in Europe has already begun to move to the Pacific theatre...

Anyone can see that in a very short space of time our armed power on the Continent will have vanished... Meanwhile what is to happen about Russia? I have always worked for friendship with Russia, but, like you I feel deep anxiety because of their misinterpretation of the Yalta decisions, their attitude towards Poland, their overwhelming influence in the Balkans... What will happen in a year or two when the British and American Armies have melted... ?

Surely it is vital now to come to an understand with Russia, or see where we are with her, before we weaken our armies mortally or retire to the zones of occupation...

To sum up, this issue of settlement with the Russia before our strength has gone seems to me to dwarf all others.



4 Jun 45
[President Truman, I] view with profound misgivings the retreat of the America Army to our line of occupation in the central sector, this is bringing the Soviet power into the heart of Western Europe...


9 Jun 45
[President Truman, here] is the capital of Austria... but no one has any power there except the Russians, and not even ordinary diplomatic rights are allowed. If we give way in this matter we must regard Austria as the Sovietised half of Europe... Would it not be better to refuse to withdraw on the main European front until a settlement has been reached about Austria?


11 Jun 45
[Mr Eden, I] am still hoping the retreat of the American centre to the occupation line can be staved off till 'the Three' meet... Of course at any moment the Americans may give way to the Russian demand...

In his own words, "All I could do was to plead, first, for advancing the date of the meeting of 'the Three', and, secondly when that failed to postpone the withdrawal until we could confront all our problems as a whole..."

He later writes:

There were many other matters on which it was right to confront the Soviet Government, and also the Poles, who... had obviously become their puppets... [I] had in view... to have a show-down at the end of the Conference, and, if necessary to have a public break rather than allow anything beyond the Oder and the Eastern Neisse to be ceded to Poland. However, the real time to deal with these issues was... when the fronts of the mighty Allies faced each other in the field, and before the Americans... made their vast retirement... thus giving the heart and great mass of Germany over to the Russians.
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