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Harvest Of Sorrow

I recently finished Robert Conquests Harvest Of Sorrow. It was not a fun book to read, but it was very informative and hard to put down.

The descriptions of the Ukrainian Famine were horrifying and heartrending.One that sticks with me as I write this is of a mother burying her child who had just died of starvation. Russian soldiers accused her of digging a grain pit, so they dug the child up to satisfy their suspicions, and left her to bury him again.

People got so hungry they would eat rats,ants, tree bark, and each other.

There is a chapter called "Record Of The West", in which Conquest cites the denial and rationalization of Stalin's horrors from western intellectuals. New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, who repeatedly denied stories of the famine, gets a much deserved going over.

One of the most disturbing quotes in the book comes from a work by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. In speaking of Stalin's dekulakization plan, they admit it necessarily involved ejecting "something like a million families" from their homes, and then go on to offer this rationalization:

"Strong must have been the faith and resolute the will of the men who, in the interest of what seemed to them the public good, could take so momentous a decision".

This quote is scary because it sounds so much like remarks I have heard in conversations with otherwise decent, reasonable people. Especially the words "public good". It sounds like something no one could be against, but it also defies definition. It can be used by anyone to excuse all manner of outrage. (The USSC's Kelo decision comes to mind).

To paraphrase Edmund Burke, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that naive men prattle about the public good."