Dear Robert Conquest,
I have read your book "Stalin: Breaker of Nations," and while I consider much of it to be good and based on quality research, there are some points that absolutely deserve reconsideration. Specifically, you describe the Soviet Black Propaganda as reporting "fearful suffering in the West -- the machinegunning of workers in London, children working twelve hours a day in sweatshops in New York." (Page 277.) You go on to say that inventions made in the west were then attributed to Russians, "the radio before Marconi." This is a curious point. Did you not have an encyclopedia or Internet access nearby when you wrote this book? Because any website will tell you that Tesla was completely responsible for the invention of light wave data modulations ("radio"). Both Edison and Marconi stole their work from Tesla, which again, you can find out by just looking up those inventions, either in Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica.
Anyway, my real point is about the first comment: "the machinegunning of workers in London." Are you denying the military intervention that was ordered by the British government during 1945 to 1951? (See: "A People's History of London," by Lindsey German, page 230.) Certainly, London hasn't seen the worst of the police state oppression during labor strikes. If you want to know where workers were machinegunned down by the army for resisting Capitalism within the West, here's a beginner's list:
-- 1892: US Federal Army violently suppressed the Pullman Strike in Illinois
Are you denying the 12-hour, child labor, sweatshop conditions that New York alone was specifically famous for? Then look up the well-documented books "How the Other Half Lives," by Riis, "Lords of Industry," by Henry Demarest Lloyd, the articles of journalists Owen Lovejoy, Joseph Dana Miller, Mary Van Kleeck, Elizabeth Watson, and Margaret Sanger (Planned Parenthood). If books and newspapers are too much for you, then try the movie "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," based on the childhood of someone living in poverty in New York City around that time. This is by far the most embarrassing point of your book, as there are few other places in the world that are so well-known for their notorious exploitation of child labor. And in a single breath, you dismiss it as "Soviet Black Propaganda."
Have you ever considered yourself to be a writer of "Capitalist Black Propaganda"? Honest writers give both sides of the argument. I'm not here telling you that you need to give the other side of Stalin's argument -- just that you need to admit that the contradictions which you accuse Stalin of are differences of degree, and not type, in comparison to the leaders of Capitalist nations. You accuse Stalin with killing tens of millions, because he mismanaged his grain supplies. Why don't you accuse the Capitalist class of murdering every single person on the planet who dies from starvation in a country with private property? Oh, of course, that's right: because that's personal prejudice. You, personally, own a book, you make revenue from intellectual property; you're a killer, because you make money in an economy that allows people to starve to death! Isn't it great to have someone read your book and apply your own logic to you?
I'd like a reply, if you have a minute. I read more than 300 pages of your material; I'm just asking for you to read one or two of mine and let me know if you have any public corrections to make.
I have given you more than a month and a half to respond to my criticism of your book, "Stalin: Breaker of Nations," and yet, I've heard nothing. If freedom of speech is worth being used in attacking and tearing down dictators, then it should be used to defend those decisions. My only problem with your depiction of Stalin as a "Breaker of Nations" is that he did very little that was different from any other national leader, then or now, from any government whether self-described as "Democratic," "Dictatorial," and both.
"De Gaulle noted that the Soviet guests did not look very mirthful." (Page 264) This is the only interaction with De Gaulle in the entire book. How come you do not describe him as just another dictator, face to face with Stalin, the way you described the interaction between Stalin and Hitler? In Algeria, De Gaulle rigged elections ("France," Albert Guerard, Michigan University Press, pages 515-6), which means that there may have been less democracy in De Gaulle's election than in either Hitler's or Stalin's. In De Gaulle's Vietnam, "According to government estimates, in some districts nearly 90 percent of the population was dying of hunger." ("The Communist Road to Power," Second Edition, by William J. Duiker, page 37.) His economic policies, in one single instance, led to "up to 2 million dead, with corpses lying along the roadside." (Page 86.)
This is precisely what you criticized Stalin for when his government seized grain from locals. Even then, your criticism of Stalin and the numbers you attribute to him are tremendously inflated. Kulaks were an oppressive, brutal, Capitalist class all throughout Russia, and when I look them up in the back of your book, it says "See peasant." (Page 339.) "...the idea of the exploiting kulak was a false one.... there is little sign that even they had been much resented by their fellow villagers..." In reality, the kulaks made up 4 percent of all peasants, employing a "permanently landless rural wage earner or urban worker" that made up nearly 30 percent of all peasants. ("The Despised and the Damned," by Jules Koslow, Page 131.) According to other estimates, almost half of the entire economy was completely dominated and controlled by the Kulaks. ("The End of the Russian Land Commune, 1905-1930," by Dorothy Atkinson, page 286.) If you expand the Kulak class to include wealthy merchants, then we can modify this statement: the Kulaks owned 75% of all agricultural machinery in Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution. (Page 285.)
That's very different from your description, "... the idea of the exploit kulak was a false one..." Statistical analysis of the Russian economy underlines how little you truly understand the situation in revolutionary Russia. But why is it that you love Charles de Gaul when he starves millions of his own people to death, yet you hate Joseph Stalin for doing precisely the same exact thing? That's right -- you're a member of a right-wing, Libertarian organization, the Hoover Institution, whose mission statement begins with "Both our social and economic systems are based on private enterprise from which springs initiative and ingenuity..." Doesn't that seem deceitful that someone from a hardcore, Capitalist group writes a biography of Stalin, and every time a Capitalist shows up in the book, it's a poor, hungry, Horatio Alger, "rags-to-riches-overnight" peasant-capitalist who is just being brutally taxed to death by domineering, overpowered, Soviet authorities? Don't you think that people who read your book are going to read the biographies of other world leaders, and eventually realize, "Hey, what that Conquest guy said was totally out of proportion to the actual situation in reality!" I keep finding myself saying that all the time.
In many ways, Joseph Stalin reminds me of Margaret Thatcher. Soviet forces crushed the Polish independence movement when it became active and started to demand self-government. British forces did the same to Falkland Islands roughly at the same period in time. And YOU! What did you do? You spent years and years researching Soviet style of rule, Stalin's history, and the Communist Party, so that you could expose them to the world for being cruel, vicious and tyrannical. And, on the side, you wrote speeches for Margaret Thatcher in an attempt to justify to the world that the only nation with the right to govern the land in Argentina is Great Britain. (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/feb/15/featuresreviews.guardianreview23)
You perfectly fit the description that Orwell gave to right-wing, Capitalist Nationalists....
"All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by our side."
Patiently awaiting a response,