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The 21st Century With its Not-So-Ironic Veneration of Tyrants

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2012-10-23-CCCP.JPG

This is a t-shirt on sale in a bookshop near my flat and just off campus at the University of Edinburgh. It sits alongside a t-shirt which says 'I'm the one the Daily Mail warned you about', which makes me think whoever wears it is a paedophile, and another that says 'I wish Thatcher had had a State Funeral years ago' or something like that. You know, it's the sort of place that people go to buy books by Chomsky and copies of the Socialist Worker, and to hang out with other people who think property is theft and want everyone to know that they do.
Mostly, these armchair revolutionaries are harmless, and if nothing else they're quite vehement about being politically correct, often to the point of boring. Aside from wishing former prime ministers who now suffer from Alzheimer's disease were dead.

CCCP, for those of you outside of a relatively useless 'know', is an abbreviation for Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, the name of the Soviet Union (or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in Russian.

The Soviet Union is, by almost any standards, a horrible blight upon history. Following the Russian revolution in 1917 it refused to recognise The Hague conventions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it would continue to refuse to do so until 1955. Fitting of this refusal to accept international law, the new dictatorship of the proletariat went on to commit a string of horrific war crimes in the name of their self-righteous revolution.

Following it's ascension to power, the Stalinist leadership of the Soviet Union used the NKVD, Народный комиссариат внутренних дел or People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, to, in Marxist terminology, suppress counter-revolutionaries, or more accurately to politically oppress their own 'citizens'.

In the Second World War the Soviet Union eviscerated Eastern Europe. Estonia had its population reduced by 20%. Poland had its military leadership and intellectual establishment buried en masse on her border with the Soviet Union, who it had assumed was its ally. 1.5 million Inhabitants of Poland were forcibly removed, by the Red Army. Some were taken to labour camps. Some failed to make it that far. 17,000 Lithuanian civilians were deported to the gulags of Siberia by a repressive Soviet government, but that is merely a particularly cold tip of the horrific iceberg; 780,000 Lithuanian civilians were lost to the mother country in one manner or another.

The Red Army started to lose in 1941, it retreated back towards the Russian metropole, and en route it conducted a scorched earth policy, destroying the much sought after 'means of production' for millions of farm dependent households across Eastern Europe. Once it used allied supplies, the harsh Russian winter and some admirable grit to defeat the Nazi war machine at Stalingrad is proceeded to harshly discipline those it met on the return journey, on the grounds that they must be counter-revolutionary collaborators.

Red Army and NKVD, later KGB, brutality continued throughout the rest of war and into the post-war settlement. Germany, Yugoslavia and Hungary all endured the brutality of the CCCP. These atrocious war crimes however do not match the size and scale of the Soviet Union's operations inside its own country, where through a combination of public sector purges, man-made famine and killings of political prisoners resulted in the deaths of at least 10 million Soviet Citizens.

The message of this is article quite simple. It's not acceptable to wear a t-shirt in general day-to-day wear that bears the name of a tyrannical regime that denied its people freedom for 80 years, and killed millions of its own and other countries citizens.

It doesn't matter if you support a part of the ideology underlying what happened, the history of the Soviet Union should make you reconsider your ideological position, not brandish with pride those that used it as excuse to end the lives of millions.