alan little’s weblog

slashdotted (sort of)

17th December 2003 permanent link

Well. Brian Micklethwait samizdata’d my thoughts about Furtwängler’s Eroica, which is sort of like being slashdotted except the comments are generally intelligent.

In this case, though, the comments became a bit of a shouting match about the horrors of Communism, mixed in with veiled accusations of anti-German prejudice for saying the Germans were to blame for Nazism and of anti-Russian prejudice for saying the Russians weren’t to blame for Bolshevism. I think I have adequate grounds for pleading not guilty to either, and the horrors of Communism aren’t something I was ever disputing.

I was more interested in why it might be possible for some genuine creativity to survive under one form of tyranny but not under another; and in questioning my personal reaction of finding art from Nazi Germany inherently nauseating but art from the Soviet Union not, and whether there’s any justifiable reason for that other than the biases of my own upbringing.

Brian thinks there might be – “my gut feeling is that there was indeed something an order of magnitude worse about Nazi Germany”. We seem to be in a minority, and I’m less sure than I was that that position is actually defensible.

On the other hand, that means if it’s ok to enjoy Shostakovich, it’s also ok to enjoy Furtwängler.

UPDATE: On reflection, my reaction to the comments on samizdata was over-defensive. Quite a lot of people made the point, which I think is quite valid, that we still have an ingrained tendency to underestimate the horrors of communism that stems from generations of wilful blindness on the part of the western left, and possibly also still partly from pro-Russian wartime propaganda. One guy also expressed an interesting theory that I haven’t heard before, that one reason the Germans made the horrible mistake of voting for the Nazis was to save themselves from Communism. Which would make Hitler at least partly Lenin’s fault. I’m not sure about this, I don’t know how widely what really went on the Russia in the 1920s was known outside – although there were a lot of people of German descent living in Russia then, it’s probably reasonable to assume some of them must have been in touch with relatives in the west.

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