Holodomor: the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33

Etymologically, the Ukrainian word Holodomor is composed of holod, hunger, and demoryty, which has no direct equivalent in French and can be rendered as 'to let perish deliberately'. In this formulation, intentionality is decisive: to allow someone to perish is to murder. For Ukrainians, the word is therefore synonymous with genocide, and, just as Shoah refers today to the genocide suffered by the Jews at the hands of the Nazis in 1941-1945, or Samudaripen to the genocide suffered by the Roma (Gypsies), holodomor refers to the genocide suffered by Ukrainians under the "Soviet" regime, called "Stalinist" or "communist" depending on the interpretation and the author, in 1933. As with the other two genocides just mentioned, full awareness of the Holodomor came quite a long time after the event, and was combined with contemporary political struggles.

Agnieszka Holland's film Mr Jones is undoubtedly an important step towards raising awareness of this event outside Ukraine. This British-Polish-Ukrainian production is centred on a real character, the Welsh freelance journalist Gareth Jones (played by James Norton), a sincere liberal (in the sense of political liberalism), foreign policy advisor (or a consultant, in contemporary language) to Lloyd George, who is sent to Moscow on the strength of his reputation of having been the first journalist to interview Hitler once he came to power. He arrives in the USSR with a slightly favourable view of the regime, which he sees as a necessary ally against Hitler, and with many questions. He meets Walter Duranty, who was for years the prestigious and award-winning American correspondent of the New York Times (Peter Sarsgaard), who turns out to be a corrupted failure (but only a "failure" in the moral sense: he has done very well for himself!), and his collaborator, a sincere communist, Ada Brooks, a beautiful and fictional figure, played by Vanessa Kirby, with whom he becomes friends. He soon becomes convinced that it is vital that he go and see what was happening in Ukraine, but he was also moved by his mother's roots in that place (his mother had lived there, belonging to a family of industrialists who had invested in the town of Yuzovska, which became Stalino, today Donetsk). He manages to go there and "escape" into the snowy countryside, where he encounters the Great Famine. The rest of the film sees him trying to get himself expelled from the USSR (because he was arrested), and then shouting the truth with little success, clashing with the prevailing - capitalist - interests, and the political and media circles which dominated the Anglo-Saxon world. The end credits tell us that he was liquidated in Inner Mongolia a year later.

Deliberately, the film focuses on individuals, and not on the human masses (hence the title). But it manages to have the dimension of a historical 'fresco'. Gareth Jones is a big, friendly guy, a genuine and courageous 'liberal'. Walter Duranty is his counterpoint, and it is he who succeeds as a 'journalist'. Ada Brooks is an invention - a marvellous invention: she convinces herself that 'the truth' is above all ideology, and tells Gareth Jones so on the phone from Berlin, where a shouting Führer's radio broadcast can be heard and where a slightly blurred portrait of Rosa Luxemburg can be seen on the wall. The 'moral of this story' is surely supposed to be this: truth is not plural but is won through struggle. As with the powerful contemporary proponents of “truth à la carte” or post-truth, it is in the fundamental nature of Stalinism to deny the primacy of truth.

The focus on individualities perhaps leads to some cinematographic weaknesses - a certain over-use of "tunnel" or accelerated scenes and close-ups of faces - without which, it seems to me, the central moment of the encounter with the famine would have come out much better. This is made into a sort of almost dreamlike sequence by its very realism, which culminates in the beautiful singing of the children, who have eaten their big brother.

The true story of Gareth Jones is quite close to the narrative of the film, which of course takes some legitimate liberties, as any historically inspired film will. Gareth Jones did not in fact disappear into the Ukrainian snows, but in fact managed to get to Kharkov legally, and had a few escapades there but mostly had a good look around. He saw enough to realise what the famine and its causes really were. Moreover, Stalino (Donetsk) was hardly the countryside: it already an industrial city, like Kharkiv, where people were dying on the pavements, which was difficult to hide. If G. Jones had been arrested in a queue of starving kolkhozniks, he would have been liquidated right away. He did not "speak" until he was released at the end of March 1933. Did he meet Orwell? It is not certain, but becoming aware of the famine as a mass crime was pivotal for Orwell, who read Jones when he was seen as a troublemaker or provocateur. A year later, on his way to investigate the clashes between Japan and the USSR in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, Gareth Jones disappeared - he was about to turn 30.

But even more important for contemporary debates and issues, and for the human consciousness of our history, is the broader story of this genocide.

“Collectivisation" in the USSR began at the end of 1929: it caused some damage but the Holodomor was not its immediate consequence. Rather, the famine was the result of decisions that were taken in the autumn of 1932. Indeed, in the drafting of the law on 'socialist property' of 7 August 1932, which aimed to repress any act driven by peasant hunger, a whole series of terrible decisions were made, all of them going back to Stalin personally, intentionally targeting Ukrainians, who were identified with unruly peasants whose 'nationalism' was supposedly manipulated by 'Polish spies'.

On 8 November, the day after the anniversary of October 17 ... and the suicide of Stalin's young wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, the Politburo decided to cut off supplies to kolkhozes [collective farms], sovkhozes [state-run farms] or individual farmers in Ukraine who would not meet their quotas; 1,623 kolkhoz directors were arrested. The purge targeted the base of the apparatus, the small bosses who were suspected of being too close to and generous with their peasants.

On 18 November, against the advice of the Ukrainian CP, an order was given to return surplus grain from the previous sowing! On the 20th, a fine was introduced in for those who failed to deliver the required grain, which was to be paid in... meat: a monstrously cruel measure which amounted to killing what little remained of the collectivised livestock. On the 27th the Politburo set the deliveries due from Ukraine at one third of those required from the whole of the USSR. On the 28th the collective farms that did not deliver their "due”, which had already been blacklisted, were condemned to give up fifteen times the amount demanded. This meant that they would be stormed and looted by armed units.

This turn was clearly directed against the "Ukrainian nationalism" that was supposed to have infected the party. The policy of 'Ukrainisation', a kind of linguistic and cultural liberalism (described by pro-independence communists as paternalistic), which had been pursued from 1920-23, was officially ended. And it was ended in the worst way: at a congress of folk singers, known as kobzaris, held in Kharkiv, the artists were rounded up and deported to Karelia, where most were shot in 1937. The use of the Ukrainian language in education and administration was suppressed outside the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, first and foremost in Kuban, where it was probably still the majority language at that time. At that time the language was also declining across Ukraine. The aim was to build a "new party", making Ukraine the "fortress of the USSR", a "model SSR". On 5 December the famine was officially declared by the head of security in Ukraine, Balitsky, following a meeting with Stalin, to be the result of a Ukrainian nationalist plot in collaboration with Poland. On 14 December, a party purge in Ukraine was launched, affecting one third of its members. Policemen and apparatchiks knew that if they showed mercy to the hungry or asked for help, they would be sent down for ‘nationalism’.

On 21 December it was announced that the annual grain quota required for 1933 would have to be reached by the end of January! Such a decision was taken in full knowledge of the facts: it condemned 3 million human beings to death. On 14 January, the borders of the Ukrainian SSR and city limits were closed off. The whole system of internal passports, the USSR's famous propiska, instituted on 27 December 1932, was deployed from then on: armed columns shot at fugitives, labelled as counter-revolutionaries who were pretending to be hungry in order to sabotage the realisation of socialism.

Then, the final blow: in February-March 1933 the last seeds were collected - 38,000 people were arrested in the course of this collection. After that, Ukraine became a silent graveyard.

Excess mortality due to famine in Ukraine saw about 250,000 deaths in 1932 and 3,250,000 in 1933, with another 150,000 in 1934. 300,000 victims were city dwellers, not all of them Ukrainians, the rest were rural people, almost all of them Ukrainians. Outside Ukraine, in 1932-1933, famine killed about 700,000 people in provincial Russia, but also in the Bashkir, Udmurt and Mordvin regions of the Black Earth Region and the Volga. 500,000 people died in the plains of the northern Caucasus, including almost all the Ukrainians in the Kuban, which was then de-facto 'deukrainised'.

Famines played a structural role in establishing that overall relationship of domination which was the stuff of the Stalinist regime. Under the name of "construction of socialism", this regime undertook an unbridled accumulation of fixed capital: it was the real antithesis of the hopes of the October revolution, and particularly of the peasants’ socialisation of the land, which abolished as the land was put under state ownership, and serfdom reintroduced under the name of "collectivisation".

The famine of 1933 and its denial - we are starving but we have to admit that we live much better! - locked the new regime into place. It was preceded by the Kazakh famines (1932: 1.3 million dead and 2 million refugees out of 4 million inhabitants), which is referred to as Jasandy Acharchylyk by present-day Kazakh dissidents, or Aqtaban Subryndy by some historians, and also the famines of Outer Mongolia and Tuva. The causes of these famines involved no meteorological factors: only social reasons related to the so-called collectivisation. But at what point should famines cross a line into being considered genocides?

This complicated question seems never to have been settled by one of the most famous modern-day historians of the former USSR, Nicolas Werth. In fact, he began by stating that the Ukrainian famine of 1933 should not be considered a genocide, although it was the most terrible famine, and was surely aggravated by "Stalin's ukrainophobia" as Andrei Sakharov has it. Why? Because intentionality is not sufficiently proven? No, this is not the reason for Nicolas Werth's denial. The motive is ideological and it is very significant that he states the reason most clearly in his contribution to the Black Book of Communism.

On the one hand, Werth explains, repeating a common refrain in Russia, it was not only Ukrainians who died of hunger, but also many Russians. This is surely true. On the other hand, the famine of 1933 was only "the final episode in the confrontation between the Bolshevik state and the peasantry" which had in fact begun with the October Revolution, and had even been in gestation since the dawn of time, in Lenin's evil brain. Therefore, the famine of 1933 should not be regarded as a qualitative threshold or as the origin of something new. It is, he argues, the culmination of an eternal, evil communist plot, and must be linked to the "war communism" of the years 1918-1921 (in spite of the inconvenient gap of that decade). Thus, anti-communist dogma blocks historical awareness of the Stalinist genocide aimed at Ukraine..

Nicolas Werth subsequently produced numerous works which present facts which unambiguously demonstrate the Soviet authorities’ intent, at the end of 1932 and beginning of 1933. They took decisions aimed at killing millions of Ukrainians. What’s more, these facts also establish radical, qualitative differences between this famine and that of 1921: between the Stalinist "great leap forward" of 1929-1933 and the "war communism" of 1918-1921 (and there can be no question of prettifying the latter, but that is another question).

In his “Que sais-je sur Les grandes famines soviétiques”, these facts are clearly stated: but there is still a caution about use of the term "genocide". Note also that in this book the Mongolian and Tuvan famines are ignored and it is wrongly asserted that the Kazakh famine was never named. In his “History of the USSR”, published in 2020, he returns to this theme and concedes in a back-handed manner, that the Holodomor can be compared to the Shoah and the Armenian genocide because of the "number of its victims", but not because of the intent behind it, as Stalin did not have in mind the "extermination" of the Ukrainian nation.

This is correct: Stalin possesses no racial or ethno-nationalist doctrin, nor a desire to kill all Ukrainians. There is "only", so to speak, the conscious will to starve a great many of them to death in order to keep the peasants in check, to put an end to the spectre of Ukrainian nationalism, and to purge and better control his own apparatus, all combined with a solid, thick “derzimorda” chauvinism, a word Lenin used to refer to Stalin in late 1922 in the phrase “russkogo derzimordy”, which translates as "Great Russian brute” - a more vivid translation would be "one who grabs you by the throat", a cop who beats you up and squeezes your neck, in the language of deportees and the common law.

Of course, death by hunger is just as horrible whether you are Ukrainian, Russian, Kazakh, Irish, Bangladeshi, Biafran ... But the death by hunger of nearly 4 million Ukrainians in the USSR in 1933, making up between two-thirds and three-quarters of the deaths from hunger at that time in the USSR, was deliberately amplified. This was the necessary founding act to seal the definitive transition to Stalinist society: a specific social formation based on exploitation and oppression. Stalin did not need a racial extermination ideology to do this, going beyond his derzimorda contempt for these hick Ukrainians, his irritation at their national feeling, and his sure, sharp paranoia. We can - and should - speak of genocide, as it played a role as a touchstone for the whole USSR, having targeted the main non-Russian nationality of the whole entity.

That said, as a founding act, opening the floodgates and lifting inhibitions, the Holodomor paved the way for measures of ethnic cleansing, a term that became widespread during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, but which has characterised numerous operations targeting nationally and ethnically defined populations since 1933 (and not before, if Nicolas Werth is to be believed). The first de facto "ethnic cleansing" dates from 1933: it was that of the Ukrainians of Kuban. Then, very quickly, in the second half of the 1930s, there were the mass deportations of Koreans, Poles, and other peoples. Then the 'punished peoples' of the Second World War: Chechens or Crimean Tatars. Not forgetting, above all, the mass deportations and expulsions targeting Germans, Hungarians, etc., associated with mass rapes in Central Europe in 1944-1945, which the Nazi crimes in no way excuse. This ethno-nationalist dimension is found in the Chinese, North Korean and Vietnamese regimes. So, while a racial or ethno-nationalist intention may not be present as a causal factor in the Holodomor, the Holodomor nevertheless opened the floodgates to what must be called the racist or ethnicist dimension of Stalinism (and Mao-Stalinism), which are still present today in various forms, and often structurally associated with antisemitism.

All the genocides of the 20th century, from that of the Hereros and Nama'a in 1907 to that of the Tutsis in 1994, were associated, in various forms, with silence and lies, and then with denialism.

The Holodomor is a particularly pronounced case of this general phenomenon. The code of omerta and denial go hand in hand, and the Stalinist regime has distinguished itself by having undertaken, more or less successfully for several decades, to make the descendants of its own victims deny its crimes: they were condemned to say nothing or to talk about it only in secret, at the wake. But this would never have worked without the complicity of all, and I do mean all, the capitalist powers who could have known, and whose diplomatic services knew. This is the second theme of Agnieszka Holland's film, which takes up the majority of the film's running time.

The British and American governments and media chose to 'not know'. It was enough for those in the UK to denounce 'communism' as an enemy of freedom, but they did not want to go into detail about the crimes of a state that was seen as less and less 'communist' and more and more 'national', and which could be a possible ally, offering investment prospects. In Roosevelt's United States, the ruling circles were largely well-disposed to the USSR: often these were the same people who would later become Cold Warriors. The same is true in France, with the famous case of Edouard Herriot, the Radical-Socialist mayor of Lyon, who was taken to Ukraine where he saw a land of plenty...

The consuls of Fascist Italy sent extensive documentation to their government. Famine, cannibalism, abandonment of children, violent abuse of power, everything was there, and has since provided the material for a book by the researcher Andrea Graziosi. The fascist regime did not make public what one might have naively considered excellent anti-communist propaganda material! After all, Italy’s relations with Moscow only deteriorated in the late 1930s and that the USSR supplied it with oil when it invaded Ethiopia.

The same applies to the data sent by the German diplomatic and espionage services - when Germany was turning Nazi. Certainly, in his election campaign in March 1933, Hitler spoke of millions of deaths from hunger in the USSR. But he said not a word about Ukraine in particular and, in general, he describes them as victims of "Marxism", a term which, in Mein Kampf (this has been generally forgotten), refers first and foremost to social democracy. Beyond these general formulas - and the Nazis spoke of famine in the USSR at times when there were no famines - the Nazi leaders were careful not to give precise information, which was available to the German state services (the German embassy sent a report stating that 5.5 million people had died in August 1933, which was kept secret). It is all the more pathetic, then, to read today on blogs of Stalinist nostalgics that the Ukrainian famine was an "invention of Doctor Goebbels" (the same one, after all, who went on to approve the maintenance of kolkhozes in occupied Ukraine in 1941, to keep the peasants slaving away...).

Pilsudski's Poland, which was well placed to know all about these events, also stuck to the code of omerta. In 1930, thousands of Ukrainian and Belarussian peasants had fled to Poland, a fact that had greatly alarmed the Stalinist authorities, who would go on incessantly about Polish spies. Until collectivisation, Ukrainian and Belarussian national politics tended to favour the Soviet republics against Greater Poland. But from collectivisation onwards, the USSR became utterly repellent and the Ukrainian nationalist movement based in Poland turned more and more to the extreme right. However, the Polish government did not consider it appropriate to support the peasants, and thus the Ukrainian and Belarussian nationalities, on the Soviet side of the border, because it oppressed those same nationalities at home. In July 1932, it signed a non-aggression treaty with the USSR, which gave Stalin and Kaganovitch a free hand: they knew that Poland was no longer a danger for a while, but nevertheless they intensified their hunt for all the 'Polish spies' supposedly manipulating Ukrainian and Belarussian nationalists. The border was closed. The same applied to the Romanian side.

In short: there is no exception to the silent complicity of all "capitalist" countries, be they democratic, fascist, nationalist or Nazi, with the Holodomor when it began!

In each case, there were various reasons: opportunism, politics, diplomacy, economics. But at a deeper level, this clear unanimity refers to two major facts, one social and one national. The social fact is that, in spite of all the speeches on both sides, in spite of the ideologies, capitalist states as a whole did not feel that what the USSR was becoming at the beginning of the thirties represented an especially alien entity or a barbaric threat. That sense of threat and otherness had certainly been present after October 1917, and they had all taken part in the blockade and made direct or indirect interventions in favour of the white generals. But not now, when this regime is at the most murderous in its entire history! The national fact is that Ukraine may have inspired a few crocodile tears at best, but certainly not political sympathy as a national issue, as Poland or Ireland did in the 19th century. The largest stateless nationality in Europe, present in the USSR but also in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, is an explosive subject and, therefore, one which is kept hidden.

The blackout of the facts was very powerful and misled even the Ukrainian émigré community to some extent. A rather interesting aspect is the evolution of the position of the main political opponent of the USSR, Leon Trotsky. He had very little information about the Ukrainian famine in 1932-33: he knew that there was a famine, but he spoke of harm to the peasantry in general, but not specifically of any particular nationality. It was at the end of the thirties that the fight for a Ukraine that was both Soviet in the true sense of the word, and therefore democratic, unified and independent, took a central place in his writings. Although he did not pose this explicitly, he was calling into question the very existence of the USSR, a bureaucratic state that was an exploiter and a prison of the people. This growing importance of the Ukrainian question for Trotsky parallels, not coincidentally, the growing importance taken on by the Jewish question, the Jews being in his view threatened with annihilation in the very next period, barring proletarian revolution. The march towards the second world war, which accelerated from the Munich agreements when the Hitler-Stalin rapprochement clearly took shape, from the beginning of 1939 and which was no "surprise", reinforced both the gravity, the high stakes, and the revolutionary potential, of the question of the Russian-Stalinist oppression in Ukraine and the question of anti-Semitism.

However, the Trotskyists, or at least the "orthodox" ones who remained attached to the theory of the "bureaucratically degenerated workers' state” come what may, did not follow this evolution in Trotsky's thought: their "defence of the USSR" often remained linked with a visceral mistrust towards many national questions, and the Ukrainian national question in particular. Of French historians with a Trotskyist background, Pierre Broué hardly engages with this question. Notably, it is absent from his biography of Christian Rakovsky, the first leader of the Soviet Ukraine in 1919, a time when it was posed most decisively. On the Holodomor, Jean-Jacques Marie agrees with Nicolas Werth of the Black Book: it was, he thinks, the dramatic effects of collectivisation and repression, but certainly not genocide...

Today, it is hardly surprising that the central source of Holodomor denial is Putin's regime in Russia. The “politics of history” is becoming increasingly important in Putin's politics in general, and the constitutional amendments which were recently approved in a dubious referendum enshrine an interpretation of history within the constitution. This is a state reaction against the efforts of several generations of "dissidents", represented by the struggle of the Memorial association, which was born under perestroika and is now being repressed again.

Vladimir Putin's officially right-wing, traditionalist and conservative government is in line with an increasingly openly-avowed continuity with the regimes of Brezhnev and Stalin. Thus, the story of the Holodomor is contrasted with the 'shared tragedy of the Soviet peoples': the great misfortune of the famine, it is claimed, should bring Ukrainians closer to the Russian fold instead of pushing them away. Before his death, Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave his full support to this idea, calling the term Holodomor "an insinuation of Bolshevik agitprop" aimed at "confusing brotherly peoples". The red-white summary of history, as attempted by Putin and his advisors such as Dugin or Surkov, intends to adopt all the military and domineering acts of the past, both tsarist and Stalinist, and only demonises, or brackets off, the October 17 revolution (and, of course, the figure of Trotsky). In his speech of 17 April 2014, following Russia’s intervention in Crimea and Donbass, Putin, taking up Catherine II's concept of Novorossia, denounced the creation of Ukraine's eastern borders, encompassing Donbass, as a Bolshevik crime.

Holodomor denial is now part of the Kremlin's official discourse on the origins of the Second World War, developed at length by Putin for the American neo-conservative magazine The National Interest on 18 June 2020, a laborious undertaking to deny or, better still, justify the Hitler-Stalin alliance. Poland plays the role of scapegoat here, becoming almost the main culprit of the Second World War, based on the annexation of Teschen (Zaolzie for the Poles) during the carving up of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1938 and the Polish-German non-aggression treaty of 1934.

But from the point of view of Polish diplomacy in this period, this treaty was only a counterpart to the other, similar pact which was signed with Moscow in 1932, as mentioned above. This treaty offered diplomatic cover for the complicity of the Polish military regime with the Holodomor. Putin does not say a word about this latter pact, which was three years old by then, and renewed from 1934 to 1945. It was confirmed by Moscow, following a threat to cancel it after the occupation of Teschen. The treaty was officially abolished only on 17 September 1939, when Soviet troops attacked Poland after its invasion by the Wehrmacht, and in agreement with the latter. Putin accuses Poland, eight decades later, but has little interest in going into the details of the historical truth.

Officially, he was reacting to the European Parliament's resolution of 17 September 2019 on the "importance of memory for the future of Europe", a resolution that is, in turn, part of another trend to instrumentalise history. But that was surely just a pretext. Why should Putin take responsibility for the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939-1940, and thus the division of Eastern Europe between Hitler and Stalin? His aim is to integrate the military operations of the years 1939-41, carried out in agreement with Hitler in the case of Poland, the Baltic States and Finland, into the 'Great Patriotic War', in which the USSR defended itself against that same Hitler. The common theme is an armed push towards Europe, towards the West, affirming that the territories of the former Soviet republics, of which Ukraine is the most important, belong to the 'Russian world' and, beyond that, justifying any military push westwards (in the same way, the march on the Vistula in 1920 is integrated into this same 'glorious' historical heritage).

This typical imperialist theme is reflected, in France, in the productions, sites and blogs of two women who are considered saints of a sort, albeit in a rather small milieu, that of "unrepentant Stalinist communists". The academic Annie Lacroix-Riz denies the Holodomor and in its place substitutes this canard: “the vast campaign launched in 1933 around the ‘famine in Ukraine’ [according to her, this was an invention of the Vatican; while Ms Lacroix-Riz pontificates, people like Agnieszka Holland are confronting the priests today in Poland...].”

Taking up this myth, Danielle Bleitrach, who presents herself as a former PCF official responsible for international questions (which would explain her effusive affection for satrapies held by mercenaries and mafia torturers such as the Donbass, Transnistria, Rachid Dostom's militias in Afghanistan...), literally bursts with hatred against Agnieszka Holland, "one of those Polish Jews who prefers an alliance with the former Nazis than with the Communists, the kind of person for whom Begin is a model" (sic). By "alliance with the former Nazis", Mrs Bleitrach means talking seriously about the Holodomor (which, by the way, does not concern Begin, whose heir Netanyahu is reliant on Trump and Putin!)

To this fire-breathing club, we must add, via the Delga publishing house, an "eminent" American academic, Grover Furr (professor of "medieval literature": for this gentleman, defending Stalin is merely a hobby), who regards the indictments from the Moscow trials as... proof of the guilt of the accused! Then there is Mark Tauger, who theorises about "context" to explain that Stalin had to be tough on the Ukrainian muzhiks. Altogether, we have a nest of denial that deserves an investigation into the connections between Stalinism and neo-cons: West Virginia University.

Let us note three things. These so-called "communists" are, on the Holodomor, the direct heirs of Duranty, Mussolini, Pilsudski, Herriot ... in short, the anti-communist bourgeois politicians who in their time supported the Holodomor. Secondly, by taking such positions, the moral, intellectual and political level of this small milieu is completely alien to the labour movement and is similar to that of the groups that deny the Shoah to hide the fact that they regret that it did not go all the way. Thirdly, there is an inevitable convergence between these two groups. The main theme of the vituperation from these circles against A. Holland's film is that its financing is shady. This takes us, via Kolomoiski (a Ukrainian oligarch of Jewish origin, a favourite target of Mme Bleitrach for whom this character, the embodiment of pure finance in its most absolutely cosmopolitan form, pays "the Ukrainian Nazis"; more prosaically, the far-right thugs admired by Mme Bleitrach who are holding Eastern Ukraine to ransom speak of the "Jewish Nazi", the utmost essence of Judaism for today's most radical anti-Semites..), to a kind of international conspiracy. Unsurprisingly, it all leads back to 'Soros' and other euphemisms for the you-know-whos...

Acknowledging and understanding what happened is a matter of moral and human importance, which is inseparable from the intellectual and political issue at stake. Holodomor deniers do not base their arguments on historical and factual data (in this respect, the book by Grover Furr and its preface by Domenico Losurdo, which consists in listing its "sources", which are largely or even solely the minutes of the Moscow trials, is similar to the method of those anti-Semites who saw "proof" by reading the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). They reason from present issues: as "the US" or "the EU" or fetishised figures such as "Bernard Henri Lévy" are supposed (whether this is true or not, because in fact Trump's US or Orban's and Macron's EU are not what they pretend!), to be in a "camp", and that this camp is supposed to be that of the exploitation of workers, capital being fetishistically reduced to this "camp" only, then everything that fights, really or fictitiously, the said "camp", must be supported. So we have to be on the other "side", morbidly mimicking the Cold War of yesteryear, with the "Donbass resistance" against "the Maidan", Ukraine being reduced to an eternal essence having to do with "the Nazis", and similarly we have to be with Bashar el Assad or Maduro, even though these "anti-imperialists" often do not confront anyone’s imperialism, but shoot at "their" peoples. These are positions of rallying to the existing capitalist order, via a “sacred union”, and there is a great danger that this remnant of Stalinism, not dead at all, will prove to be the primary vehicle leading to postures of “sacred union” in the future wars that this century may yet see.

But this view does not only afflict decaying specimens like the French examples I've given above. There are also some working-class activists who believe that this "camp" is theirs. And it is important to sober them up, to demystify them, to bring them back to reality and to true internationalism, which is based on basic human solidarity.

If we look at the history of the 20th century, from which we inherit our mental and political chains, the Holodomor and Hitler's rise to power in Germany are twin events, deeply linked. Both establish a before and after. Neither would have happened without Stalinism. One of the two - Hitler - makes a terrible noise that drowns out the few voices reporting that people in Ukraine are dying of hunger on orders from above. But the other, the Holodomor, is no less important by the very fact that it is hushed up, censored, obscured. Had the Holodomor been more widely known about, it would probably have been interrupted and would have led to the undermining of the social regime which was founded and reinforced by its perpetration and subsequent denial of the famine. The nightmarish aspects of our modern world spring from these two distinct but combined sources: Hitler and Stalin. In order to wage a struggle to change the world and win a future, we must be aware of these foundations of the present order. To deny these foundations is an attack against our struggle, because it has no other function than to take away our weapons, those of struggle and organisation, those of consciousness.

Translated by Edward Maltby from the French here.