After reading former History tutor and teacher, Thembile Ndabeni’s paean of praise for Stalin for delivering development to Russia and bringing peace and liberation (The Mercury, April 25), there must be many readers awaiting his enlightened views on how good Hitler was because he built autobahns, developed oil from coal technology and gave the world the Volkswagen.
Whilst it is for every generation to review history, it needs to be recognised that when context and objectivity are ignored for the sake of advancing ideology, history becomes propaganda. Tyranny cannot be sanitised which is what Ndabeni attempts to do. The murder of at least 30 million people, the brutal use of slave labour, the abolition of religion and the atmosphere of constant fear that was Stalin’s Russia cannot be consigned to the sidelines as just an unfortunate corollary of his stellar achievements.
The complete absence of context in Ndabeni’s fractured view of Stalin is evident in his assertion that Stalin “consolidated the liberation of countries from the yoke of imperialism.” The reality was that Stalin threw the yoke of communist imperialism over Eastern Europe, ransacked those countries of their resources and transformed the region into a giant prison camp.
Stalin did not save the world from Nazi conquest. Without the massive shipments of weapons, technology and resources by the US and UK to Russia, Hitler might have prolonged Nazi occupation of vast areas of Russia.
Stalin’s influence in Africa was anything but liberating and manifested itself in the form of at least three tyrants. Haile Mengistu of Ethiopia was known as the ‘Stalin of Africa’ for his brutality and genocide. Samora Machel of Mozanbique left a legacy of widespread torture, terror and death notably for his efforts to eradicate Christianity. Robert Mugabe killed at least 40,000 Ndebele tribesmen and reduced a once prosperous country to hunger and destitution.
When the likes of Thembile Ndabeni attempt to present propaganda as history, the future of the past is in trouble.