Lousy Evidence: On the Uselessness of ‘Defector’ Testimony (with relation to Xinjiang)

Some years ago now, there was self-styled ‘historian’ called Robert Conquest. He began his career, in 1948, working for the innocuously sounding ‘Information Research Department’, or IRD. This was an anti-communist unit under the auspices of the British Foreign Office. It was kept secret as long as possible (but the Russians knew about it) and was focused on developing anti-Soviet propaganda, in colonial countries and in the British labour movement. It soon became the largest unit in the Foreign Office.

Apart from a significant number of ‘defectors’ from the Soviet Union – in other words, anti-communist operators from the Russian bourgeoisie and aristocracy – it also employed a certain Robert Conquest. While undertaking this worthwhile task, Conquest also gathered much ‘testimony’ from the ‘defectors’. By 1956, Conquest had more than enough material and set out to become a ‘freelance’ historian and writer.

The result was a series of works, of which the most well-known are:

1968. The Great Terror: A Reassessment.

1986. The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine.

1992. Stalin: Breaker of Nations.

I almost forgot the most intriguing work of all, co-authored with Jon White. It is called What to Do When the Russians Come: A Survivor’s Handbook, published in 1984.

These works appeared at the right time, when the ‘West’ was desperate for information to demonise not merely Stalin, but communism as such. In these works, we find the beginnings of the notions of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the ‘Holodomor’ (Ukrainian ‘Holocaust’). For Conquest, communism was simply an evil, a blight on history, and the communist party was a secretive, paranoid outfit bent on a hellish world domination.

There was one problem: the nature of his ‘evidence’. Conquest relied on the material supplied by the aforesaid ‘émigrés’ or ‘defectors’, who had escaped the evil clutches of communism to tell their stories. Lurid stories they were, with one competing with the other to tell yet another tale. Let us compare this with ‘defectors’ from the DPRK (North Korea). They are paid 1 billion won (almost USD 1 million) if they have ‘useful’ information. You can imagine what sort of ‘information’ they are keen to supply.

Real historians have been less than impressed with Conquest’s methods. For example, already back in 1986 Robert Thurston described Conquest’s methods as ‘deskbound parochialism’ that made use of ‘lousy evidence’. In other words, it is simply unreliable for any serious historical research.

Fast-forward to 2018-2019 and the situation in Xinjiang, China. As the confected narrative of ‘ethnic cleansing’ among the Uyghur minority nationality has begun to unravel in light of the full story, what have the media in a small number of former colonial countries begun to do? Trot out a ‘defector’. This person proceeds to give a heart-rending account of ‘torture’ at the hands of the evil Chinese authorities (are not all communists incarnations of the devil?).

This is an old trick, used on many occasions in the past – the Soviet Union, DPRK, China in relation to Tibet, and now in relation to Xinjiang, China.

But it remains pure anti-communist propaganda, in the tradition of Robert Conquest. It is simply lousy evidence.

Advertisements

Forty helpful tips for anti-communists

1. Constantly insist that Marxism is discredited, outdated, and totally dead and buried. Then proceed to build a lucrative career on beating that supposedly ‘dead’ horse for the rest of your working life.

2. Remember, any unnatural death that occurs under a ‘Communist’ regime is not only attributable to the leaders of the state, but also Marxism as an ideology. Ignore deaths that occur for the same reason in non-Communist states.

3. Communism or Marxism is whatever you want it to be. Feel free to label countries, movements, and regimes as ‘Communist’ regardless of things like actual goals, stated ideology, diplomatic relations, economic policy, or property relations.

4. If there was a conflict involving Communists, the conflict and all ensuing deaths can be laid at the feet of Communism. Be careful when applying this to WWII. Fascist movements who fought against the Soviets or Communist partisans are fine, but try not to openly praise Nazi Germany. Save that for private conversations if you must do so.

5. You decide what Marxism ‘really means,’ and who the rightful representatives of Communism were. Feign interest that Trotsky was somehow robbed of power by Stalin, despite the fact that you hate him as well.

6. Constantly talk about George Orwell. Quote from Animal Farm or 1984. Do not worry about the fact that Orwell never set foot in the Soviet Union and both of those books are novels.

7. Quote massive death tolls without regards to demographics or consistency. 3 million famine deaths? 7 million? 10 million? 100 million deaths total? You need not worry about anyone checking your work, which is good for you seeing that you probably haven’t done any.

8. Everyone ever arrested under a Communist regime was most likely innocent of any crime. Communists only arrested harmless poets and political prophets who had a beautiful message to share with the world.

9. Everything Stalin did or didn’t do had some sinister ulterior motive. Everything.

10. Keeping with the spirit of #9, remember that Stalin was an omnipotent being, perhaps an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu, who had full awareness of everything going on in the Soviet Union and total control over every occurrence which took place between 1924 and 1953. Everything that occurred during that time was the will of Stalin. Stalin knew the exact details of every criminal case that took place during that era and out of his boundless cruelty, had tons of innocent people shot for no reason regardless of where they were or their position in life. Being omnipotent, he was not dependent on information passed up from tens of thousands of subordinates.

11. Constantly attack ‘Communist’ regimes for actions that occur in capitalist regimes up to this very day.

12. Claim that Marxism is utopian because of its description of a possible future society. Alternately claim that Marxism failed because it never gave a detailed description of how a Communist society would look. Do not pay attention to the massive contradiction here.

13. Start referring to Marxism as being some kind of religious faith, Messianic, or whatever other spiritualist bullshit you can come up with. When people point out that you can draw similarities between virtually any political ideology and other religions, ignore them.

14. Remember the one-two anti-Communist attack: Attack the post-Stalin system on economic grounds, and claim it just doesn’t work. Since an informed opponent will most likely point out that actual socialist economics did indeed work during the Stalin era, and in fact worked very well, attack that era on human rights grounds.

15. Two words – Human nature. What is human nature? For your purposes, human nature is a quick explanation why political ideas or systems you don’t like are wrong.

16. Bolshevik revolutions were carried out with violence and bloodshed. Bourgeois revolutions were all carried out by democratic referendums, and there was no violence whatsoever.

17. Use words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ constantly. Do not accept any challenge to define these terms.

18. Communists can be for or against whatever is popular in your particular area. If you are preaching to a right-wing crowd, Communists are for degeneration and homosexuality. If you are preaching to a more mainstream audience, Communists were homophobic. Essentially, Communists are for moral degeneration and puritanical prudery at the same time. Again, do not notice the contradiction.

19. Constantly flog Stalin over the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, while totally ignoring massive support and collaboration with Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan on the part of America, Britain, and France, long before the war and even after in some ways. As usual, do not allow your opponent to examine the context of the non-aggression pact.

20. Praise the new-found ‘freedom’ of Eastern Europe. Ignore the massive depopulation via migration, plunging birthrates, huge alcohol and drug problems, political instability, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, sex trafficking and child prostitution, organized crime, high suicide rates, unemployment, disease, etc. Who cares about all that when you have freedom of speech?!

21. Constantly talk about the culture of fear in Communist nations, about that ‘knock on the door’ in the middle of the night. Ignore the ‘kick in your door in the middle of the night, stick a shotgun in your back, and haul your ass out of bed etc. because you are suspected of dealing,’ a normal occurrence in the American War on Drugs.

22. Attack Communists for suppression of religion. Attack Islamic fundamentalists for not being secular. What contradiction?!

23. Do not notice the irony that the US is currently fighting an incredibly expensive, losing war against an opponent which it funded, supported, and even handed its first victory in Afghanistan.

24. What should you say when confronted with all the continuing and often worsening problems in the world today, and asked for a solution? FREEDOM!! (Repeat as necessary until your opponent goes away)

25. Nothing from “Communists” can be trusted. Unless it somehow works in your favor, ala Khrushchev’s ‘Secret Speech’ from 1956, or anything Trotsky wrote.

26. Communist leaders were ‘paranoid’ for devoting so much time to security against counter-revolution. Ignore the mountains of evidence, including the restoration of capitalism in the East Bloc, that this threat was indeed real.

27. Communist regimes were never popular. If proof is presented in various cases to show otherwise, claim that the people were brainwashed. Make no effort to consider the budgetary and logistic constraints on such an undertaking.

28. Communist propaganda is crude and primitive. If someone mentions Red Dawn or worse, mentions the J. Edgar Hoover-endorsed comic book series known as The Godless Communists, run away.

29. Praise secularism in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘pluralism’ until faced with a Communist. Then play the religion card.

30. Atrocities and other bad things that happen under non-Communist regimes are the fault of individual ‘bad people’. Anything bad that happens under a ‘Communist’ regime is the fault of the ideology and system. And Stalin.

31. Being an anti-Communist means not having to have any sort of ideological consistency whatsoever. Preach populist left-wing pseudo-socialism 90% of the time, and then compare the capitalist system to ‘Stalin’s Russia’ (if you never really studied the subject, just read 1984 and Animal Farm). Bitch about capitalism 99% of the time, but balk when someone suggests Communism as an alternative. Far right wing Fascist? Constantly bitch about cultural degeneracy under capitalism, while remaining fanatically opposed to Marxism for no discernable reason save for your affinity for historic nationalism.

32. If you’re an anarchist, keep pointing out the ‘failure’ of Marxism while ignoring the fact that your ideology has a 100% failure rate throughout its entire history. Blame those failures on Communists, or stronger military powers. Ignore the fact that the most wonderful society is worthless if it can’t defend itself from reaction.

33. Neo-Nazi? Communism is Jewish!! Debate over.

34. Neo-Hippy? Tibet!

35. Constantly condemn the genocide that allegedly occurred under Mao, while ignoring the US’ relations with China established by Nixon, and the massive role China has played in the modern US economy. When you want to talk positively about China, it’s a capitalist country. If you need to criticize it, it’s still ‘Communist’.

36. Claim Marxism is not empirical. Neither are neo-liberalism, ‘democracy’, or ‘freedom’, but don’t worry about that.

37. Always insist that despite the location, country, historical era, past experience, and all other factors, Communists must want to recreate a modern-day copy of Stalin’s Russia, and all that entails according to you. Do not notice the inherent idiocy in this concept, such as your particular country being already industrialized, and not having a historical problem of severe backwardness.

38. Learn to use the magic word ‘totalitarian’. This word allows you to link two ideological opposites, Communism and Fascism.

39. Ignore the fact that socialist states experienced more economic problems parallel to the number of capitalist market reforms they made.

40. When challenged about numbers or historical context, resort to labels like ‘ruthless tyrant,’ ‘cruel murderer,’ and such. Remember, people like Stalin were mass-murderers because of all the people they killed, and we know they killed all those people because they were mass-murderers. It totally tracks!

originally by J. Slavinski, ht cp.