So the Ukraine now lay crushed; its Church destroyed, its intellectuals shot or dying in labour camp, its peasants — the mass of the nation — slaughtered or subdued.

Robert Conquest

In his book, The Harvest of Sorrow, historian Robert Conquest outlined the genocide Moscow’s agents carried out against Ukraine in the 1930s. “It certainly appears that a charge of genocide lies against the Soviet Union for its action in the Ukraine,” wrote Conquest. “But whether these events are to be formally defined as genocide is scarcely the point. It would hardly be denied that a crime has been committed against the Ukrainian nation….” (pp. 272)

And what was that crime, specifically? Conquest offers us the following table (p. 306):

Peasant dead: 1930-37 —11 million
Dying in camps later — 3.5 million
Total —14.5 million

These deaths occurred because of communist social programs having to do with the reorganization of agriculture. The Ukrainian figure of 5 million dead from Stalin’s terror famine amounted to 18.8 percent of the population of Ukraine. By comparison, in World War I less than 1 percent of the populations involved in the war died. Thus, for Ukraine, communism was about twenty times more lethal than World War I. In fact, World War I, as a way of life, is preferable to peace under communism. Conquest then makes a few comments about these death figures:

Let us once more emphasize that the figures we have given are conservative estimates, and quite certainly do not overstate the truth. And if we cannot be more exact, it is because the Soviet regime will not let us. It is not only a matter of Stalin concealing the true facts back in the 1930s.

We owe a number of useful details to honest and courageous Soviet scholars and writers: but, even today, Moscow permits no real investigation of these monstrous events. Which is to say that to this degree the regime remains the accomplice, as well as the heir, of those who fifty years ago sent these innocent millions to their deaths.

Robert Conquest wrote those words in the 1980s. Today Moscow repeats its crime by invading Ukraine, by denying the existence of a Ukrainian nation. Think also of Russia’s accomplices in the West — those monstrous liars and accessories after the fact, who say that Ukraine and NATO are responsible for the war in Ukraine, or say that we must (for our own sake) allow the Ukrainian people to be butchered and oppressed again. It was shameful enough that the world stood by and believed the lies and tolerated Stalin’s genocide against Ukraine. But now, today, it unfolds again! And the dictator in Moscow finds no shortage of apologists and helpers in the West. They misrepresent those, like myself, who think Ukraine should be assisted, by calling us warmongers — as if we are advocating war with Russia. But there is no such advocacy. Ukrainians are already fighting because they have been invaded. It is their war, not ours. But we do have a moral obligation to help them. Furthermore, the evil they are fighting also wants to destroy us.

As Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote in 1849, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (the more things change, the more they stay the same). Karr also wrote, “Every man has three characters — that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.” Of these three characters the third is most dangerous; for there is nothing more dangerous than the falsification of self-knowledge. When we refuse to see evil in the world, it is often because we are incapable of seeing it in ourselves.

For a final insight, we may invert Karr’s aphorism to read, “The world has three faces — that which it appears to be, that which it is, and that which we place upon it.” Shall we put a false face to reality and deny the existence of objective evil? Or will we confront evil and deal with it?

Stalin and Moscow Center wanted to eradicate Ukraine as a nation. This eradication forms the backdrop to the present war in Ukraine. If you want to understand why the Ukrainians are fighting so hard against a country three times their size in population and industry, this is the reason. After outlining Stalin’s attempt to eliminate all Ukrainian literature by killing or exiling all Ukrainian writers, Conquest wrote that “the purge of Ukrainian nationalism was not over, indeed would never be over as far as the Soviet regime was concerned.” (p. 270) And now we see that the purge of Ukrainian nationalism continues today. We might ask in what ways Russia has changed? The goal under Stalin was to eradicate Ukraine. The goal under Putin is the same.

The reason I took up writing about communism, about Russia and China, was the view from my kitchen window (metaphorically). I could see from a comfortable place that terrible crimes were being committed, and that the criminals were never held accountable. NEVER. If we dared to look at the communist bloc, if we dared to peek behind the Iron Curtain, we would find millions of people suffering imprisonment, persecution, even death. Here was real evil that most people did not wish to confront. Why did so many wish to deny or downplay the reality of communist evil? I read the testimonies of gulag prisoners. I read of torture, forced labor and death. I read page after page — sitting in a comfortable house, in a comfortable country, well-fed and free. “Why make yourself upset by reading all that?” someone said to me. “Enjoy your life.”

Is it that easy? Really? — And then I saw communists operating in our universities, deploying the same arrogance in America that killed 14.5 million in Ukraine. Our academic communists have been working to make a Soviet republic out of comfortable people whose chief conceit was, “It can’t happen here.” Yet it can, and it will happen here — in some form or another. And these comfortable people, who were unconcerned about the suffering behind the Iron Curtain, had no sense of where they were headed. Their many compromises with the communists of China and Russia would be their undoing. I was convinced that nothing would get them to change course. They were blind, deaf, and dumb. And they still are.

I remember being criticized by one of my high school students in the 1980s. She said to me, “The problem with you is that you believe in the Devil.” This was rather profound for a fifteen-year-old. She realized that I had seen something evil, and was deeply concerned with it. Like most Americans, and most of her generation, the rule was to SEE NO EVIL. Life is good and one should not waste time by tilting at windmills.

How might I explain the reality of evil, right now, to that fifteen-year old? On July Fourth I went to see the movie Sound of Freedom. It was about battling evil. While the movie is a form of entertainment, the following discussion between Jordon Peterson, Jim Caviezel and Tim Ballard comes very close to explaining what evil is.

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217 thoughts on “A Question of Evil

  1. Thanks Jeff for talking about moral conviction. That is what you are all about.
    The common Ukrainians show that every day. They are amazing!
    Kevin Taylor

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