Review of Anne Applebaum’s “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine”


Dennis Brasky
 

The journalist Anne Applebaum is a leading popular historian of the former European Communist countries. She has published a substantial study of the Soviet Gulag camp system that won a Pulitzer Prize, and a study of the Communist takeovers of Eastern Europe.1   In Red Famine Applebaum focuses on the great Soviet famine of the early 1930s, which she portrays as imposed artificially by the Stalin regime on Ukraine, and the result of a long history of alleged Russian and Soviet hostility toward Ukraine. 

This book has new information on Ukrainian culture in the 1920s, Ukrainian émigré historiography of the famine after World War II, the Ukrainian government’s use of famine history, and few other topics. Overall, however, it retells the nationalist story of the famine found in earlier publications, but inaccurately, and does not cite evidence in its sources that contradicts or undermines almost all its arguments. This review focuses only on certain indicative issues in the first part of the book, and then addresses the main problems with her depiction of the famine itself.

Red Famine is better characterized by a passage from Peter Kenez’s book on The Birth of the Propaganda State: “propaganda often means telling less than the truth, misleading people … manipulating and distorting information, lying” and addresses “audiences in simple language…”

 

https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/169438



Vladimiro Giacche'
 

A fierce anticommunist, not a historian 
VG

Inviato da iPhone

Il giorno 23 nov 2022, alle ore 15:08, Dennis Brasky <dmozart1756@...> ha scritto:



The journalist Anne Applebaum is a leading popular historian of the former European Communist countries. She has published a substantial study of the Soviet Gulag camp system that won a Pulitzer Prize, and a study of the Communist takeovers of Eastern Europe.1   In Red Famine Applebaum focuses on the great Soviet famine of the early 1930s, which she portrays as imposed artificially by the Stalin regime on Ukraine, and the result of a long history of alleged Russian and Soviet hostility toward Ukraine. 

This book has new information on Ukrainian culture in the 1920s, Ukrainian émigré historiography of the famine after World War II, the Ukrainian government’s use of famine history, and few other topics. Overall, however, it retells the nationalist story of the famine found in earlier publications, but inaccurately, and does not cite evidence in its sources that contradicts or undermines almost all its arguments. This review focuses only on certain indicative issues in the first part of the book, and then addresses the main problems with her depiction of the famine itself.

Red Famine is better characterized by a passage from Peter Kenez’s book on The Birth of the Propaganda State: “propaganda often means telling less than the truth, misleading people … manipulating and distorting information, lying” and addresses “audiences in simple language…”

 

https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/169438



Michael Pugliese
 

Sorry, sent my reply on the thread started at
https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20599 , to the wrong thread ,
with the subject line of : Russian Soldiers' Calls Home Echo Moral
Injury Testimony of Vietnam Vets , my reply is at
https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20605 . Time for me to start
spending $60 for bottles of https://prevagen.com/ , heh and aargh.


Michael Pugliese


Alan Ginsberg
 

In 2017, CounterPunch published a piece by Louis Proyect, "What Caused the Holodomor? Lou wrote:

Fortunately, my privileges as a Columbia University retiree has enabled me to read Tauger’s articles, including one titled “Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933” that can be accessed at the University of Pittsburgh Carl Beck Papers in Russian and Eastern European Studies.

I was surprised, but not overly so, to discover Tauger applying the same methodology to other famines in that article. If you are one of those leftists who blames British colonialism for the Potato Famine in Ireland, he will disabuse you of such foolish notions:

Consequently an understanding of the Soviet famine, and of the intense conflict between regime and peasants over grain procurements emphasized in most studies, requires an examination of the causes of those small harvests. Two examples from the vast historiography of famines demonstrates the legitimacy and importance of such an investigation. In the case of the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1851, a nationalist literature, similar to the Ukrainian nationalist literature on the Soviet famine, holds the British government responsible.

The British government responsible? No, we can’t have that. Nor was the British government responsible for the 1943 famine in Bengal, according to Tauger’s “The Indian Famine Crises of WWII”:

This “man-made” famine argument, however, rests on uncritical acceptance of one set of unreliable statistical data that Sen and others have incorrectly described as “production data.” As will be shown below, scholars who presented this view of the famine had clear evidence that discredited these data, but they did not acknowledge this conflicting evidence, let alone address its implications. As a result their discussions of the rice harvests in Bengal before the famine have misrepresented both the data and the causes of the famine. These scholars also claim that Bengal had no shortage of rice during the famine, yet they minimize or ignore environmental conditions that did in fact cause serious shortages. Much more reliable harvest data from rice research centers in Bengal during the famine show that Bengal had a major harvest failure in 1942 and a significant shortage of rice.


full at https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/24/what-caused-the-holodomor/


Dayne Goodwin
 

Thank you Alan.  Excellent CounterPunch article by Louis.  In this article Louis writes:

Lenin had no problems making the connection between the colonial status of Ireland and Ukraine as indicated in a 1918 Open Letter to Boris Souvarine, a French Communist who had trouble distinguishing between oppressor and oppressed nations:

Socialists always side with the oppressed and, consequently, cannot be opposed to wars whose purpose is democratic or socialist struggle against oppression. It would therefore be absurd to deny the legitimacy of the wars of 1793, of France’s wars against the reactionary European monarchies, or of the Garibaldi wars, etc…. And it would be just as absurd not to recognise the legitimacy of wars of oppressed nations against their oppressors, wars that might break out today—rebellion of the Irish against England, for instance, rebellion of Morocco against France, or the Ukraine against Russia, etc…. {the ellipses are in original, dayne}


This quote is from: V. I.   Lenin "An Open Letter to Boris Souvarine"
First published (in abridged form) in La Vérité No. 48, January 27, 1918. Written in the second half of December (old style) 1916.


On Wed, Nov 23, 2022 at 10:54 AM Alan Ginsberg <ginsberg.alan1@...> wrote:
In 2017, CounterPunch published a piece by Louis Proyect, "What Caused the Holodomor? Lou wrote:

Fortunately, my privileges as a Columbia University retiree has enabled me to read Tauger’s articles, including one titled “Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933” that can be accessed at the University of Pittsburgh Carl Beck Papers in Russian and Eastern European Studies.

I was surprised, but not overly so, to discover Tauger applying the same methodology to other famines in that article. If you are one of those leftists who blames British colonialism for the Potato Famine in Ireland, he will disabuse you of such foolish notions:

Consequently an understanding of the Soviet famine, and of the intense conflict between regime and peasants over grain procurements emphasized in most studies, requires an examination of the causes of those small harvests. Two examples from the vast historiography of famines demonstrates the legitimacy and importance of such an investigation. In the case of the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1851, a nationalist literature, similar to the Ukrainian nationalist literature on the Soviet famine, holds the British government responsible.

The British government responsible? No, we can’t have that. Nor was the British government responsible for the 1943 famine in Bengal, according to Tauger’s “The Indian Famine Crises of WWII”:

This “man-made” famine argument, however, rests on uncritical acceptance of one set of unreliable statistical data that Sen and others have incorrectly described as “production data.” As will be shown below, scholars who presented this view of the famine had clear evidence that discredited these data, but they did not acknowledge this conflicting evidence, let alone address its implications. As a result their discussions of the rice harvests in Bengal before the famine have misrepresented both the data and the causes of the famine. These scholars also claim that Bengal had no shortage of rice during the famine, yet they minimize or ignore environmental conditions that did in fact cause serious shortages. Much more reliable harvest data from rice research centers in Bengal during the famine show that Bengal had a major harvest failure in 1942 and a significant shortage of rice.


full at https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/24/what-caused-the-holodomor/

 


Dayne Goodwin
 

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Michael Pugliese <michael.098762001@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 23, 2022 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Re: [marxmail] Review of Anne Applebaum’s “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine”
To: <marxmail@groups.io>

Sorry, sent my reply on the thread started at
https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20599 , to the wrong thread ,
with the subject line of : Russian Soldiers' Calls Home Echo Moral
Injury Testimony of Vietnam Vets , my reply is at
https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20605 . Time for me to start
spending $60 for bottles of https://prevagen.com/ , heh and aargh.

Michael Pugliese

Since Michael didn't reply directly to the thread, you may have missed his comments, which begin:
"Contra, Vladamiro @ https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20601 , I
would say that Applebaum , is indeed a fierce anticommunist but, also
a historian. The comment by him reminded me of what was said about
C.Wright Mills , by some department chair of a major Sociology Dept.,
when Mills was alive,"He's not a sociologist , he's a marxist!" I've
never understood , the habit of too many activists , whether of the
left or the right, to refuse to read the scholarly or journalistic
work of those that oppose their little dogmas. If it is written to a
high standard , work that challenges one's pov, s/b read ,
inconvenient and uncomfortable as it may to one's psychological state.
  .  .  .


Dayne Goodwin
 

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Michael Pugliese <michael.098762001@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 23, 2022 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Re: [marxmail] Review of Anne Applebaum’s “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine”
To: <marxmail@groups.io>

Sorry, sent my reply on the thread started at
https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20599 , to the wrong thread ,
with the subject line of : Russian Soldiers' Calls Home Echo Moral
Injury Testimony of Vietnam Vets , my reply is at
https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20605 . Time for me to start
spending $60 for bottles of https://prevagen.com/ , heh and aargh.
Michael Pugliese

[from Dayne]
Since Michael didn't reply directly to the thread, you may have missed his comments at  https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20605
which begin:

"Contra, Vladamiro @ https://groups.io/g/marxmail/message/20601 , I
would say that Applebaum , is indeed a fierce anticommunist but, also
a historian. The comment by him reminded me of what was said about
C.Wright Mills , by some department chair of a major Sociology Dept.,
when Mills was alive,"He's not a sociologist , he's a marxist!" I've
never understood , the habit of too many activists , whether of the
left or the right, to refuse to read the scholarly or journalistic
work of those that oppose their little dogmas. If it is written to a
high standard , work that challenges one's pov, s/b read ,
inconvenient and uncomfortable as it may to one's psychological state.
  .  .  .


Michael Meeropol
 

attached is a more "balanced" review of APplebaum's book by one of my favorite historians (also a fellow graduate of Swarthmore) --- Ron Suny has written extensively about Soviet, Russian, Armenian, etc. history ---- he is a historian's historian ---

I found his review very illuminating ... (He's more favorable to Applebaum than. the original piece that was posted here)


--

Ronald Grigor Suny

William H. Sewell, Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History

Professor of Political Science

The University of Michigan

  

Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History

The University of Chicago

 

 

 


Dayne Goodwin
 

Thanks Michael for sharing Ronald Suny's July 2018 "Debating Famine and Genocide: Discussion of Anne Applebaum, Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine (New York: Doubleday 2017) and Sheila Fitzpatrick's Review".  As you say it is "more balanced" than Mark Tauger's History News Network review that began this thread (imo Louis Proyect appropriately dismissed Tauger in the CounterPunch article Alan shared).

Still the concluding paragraph of Suny's 2018 commentary includes this sentence about Applebaum's book:  "Instead of a shared, complexly interwoven history, this vision separates and distances Ukraine from Russia, relating their fates as fundamentally hostile and antagonistic, an image that seems confirmed by the current conflict between the two countries."

Suny sees "two countries" but Putin doesn't:
Vladimir Putin, "Address to the People of Russia on the Donbas Problem and the Situation in Ukraine"
Address by the President of the Russian Federation, Kremlin, Moscow, February 21, 2022
http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67828
.... "So, I will start with the fact that modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia. This process started practically right after the 1917 revolution, and Lenin and his associates did it in a way that was extremely harsh on Russia -- by separating, severing what is historically Russian land. Nobody asked the millions of people living there what they thought."....

I think Suny's narrow focus on evaluating the Holodomor, 'Famine vs. Genocide', in this article is inadequate to support his assumptions about the relationship of the "two countries."  This is a broader political issue as understood by Lenin in 1916 "...the legitimacy of wars of oppressed nations against their oppressors, ... or the Ukraine against Russia ..." (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/dec/15b.htm).  And as described by Ukrainian scholar Marko Bojcun earlier this year:
"MB: This is certainly a complicated and intricate question. What I can say is, first of all, the Ukrainian identity as a choice for self-determination, which grew stronger in the 1920s, in conditions that allowed Ukrainians to enter into political life, was brutally brought to an end in the 1930s and driven underground with the Stalinist purges and the terror. The large majority of all Ukrainian political and cultural leaders were eliminated: 140 out of 142 members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine in 1933 ended up in the camps and prisons or executed outright. There was a wipeout of the intelligentsia during the famine of 1932–33, which broke the back of the peasantry as an autonomous political force."
from: "How the Ukrainian Working Class Was Born"
interview with Marko Bojcun by David Broder, Jacobin, March 26, 2022
https://jacobinmag.com/2022/03/ukrainian-working-class-formation-ussr-nato-war-national-identity

Marko Bojcun is a (retired) university lecturer, a British economist and political scientist of Ukrainian descent. He wrote his Masters dissertation on Ukrainian nationalism during World War Two and his PhD on the workers' movement during the Ukrainian Revolution and Civil War of 1917-20.  His published books are The Workers' Movement and the National Question in Ukraine 1897-1918 (2021), The Chernobyl Disaster (1988), Ukraine and Europe: a difficult reunion (2001), East of the Wall (2015) and Towards a Political Economy of Ukraine: selected essays 1990-2015 (2020).



On Wed, Nov 23, 2022 at 8:48 PM Michael Meeropol <mameerop@...> wrote:
attached is a more "balanced" review of APplebaum's book by one of my favorite historians (also a fellow graduate of Swarthmore) --- Ron Suny has written extensively about Soviet, Russian, Armenian, etc. history ---- he is a historian's historian ---

I found his review very illuminating ... (He's more favorable to Applebaum than. the original piece that was posted here)
--

Ronald Grigor Suny

William H. Sewell, Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History

Professor of Political Science

The University of Michigan

  

Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History

The University of Chicago