Was JP Sartre blind to Stalin's excesses prior to converting in 1967?

Nov 2014
1,674
Birmingham, UK
My point here is Sartre was appalled by the 1956 invasion of Hungary but his admiration of the USSR dates from his youth (he was born in 1905). The Holodomor occurred in the early 1930s and the purges dominated the late 1930s. I find it difficult to believe Sartre was ignorant of these events. Yet they didn't seem to discourage his admiration of the Stalinist state whereas the invasion of Hungary did. As bad as that was, it doesn't compare with the humanitarian disaster of the Holodomor or the impact of the purges on the political and security structure of the the USSR.

Holodomor - Wikipedia
was the holodomor widely-known in the 1930s, though? I didn't think so, I didn't think much information emerged out of the USSR about the negative elements of Soviet society

w/r/t the late-1930 purges, i thought the Stalinist line was that they were purging Trotskyist/other counter-revolutionaries? perhaps if one really wanted to believe, they might believe that?
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,198
Kansas
was the holodomor widely-known in the 1930s, though? I didn't think so, I didn't think much information emerged out of the USSR about the negative elements of Soviet society

w/r/t the late-1930 purges, i thought the Stalinist line was that they were purging Trotskyist/other counter-revolutionaries? perhaps if one really wanted to believe, they might believe that?
The Holodomor was pitched as a war against ungrateful over entitled peasants hell bent on sucking the life out of the revolution.

As for the purges, as I mentioned before a lot of regular Soviet citizens thought that these were going on without Stalin's knowledge. There was just enough show trials of upper level party members to help reinforce this.
 
Nov 2014
1,674
Birmingham, UK
The Holodomor was pitched as a war against ungrateful over entitled peasants hell bent on sucking the life out of the revolution.

As for the purges, as I mentioned before a lot of regular Soviet citizens thought that these were going on without Stalin's knowledge. There was just enough show trials of upper level party members to help reinforce this.
was the world at large, or Sartre for the purposes of this discussion, aware of the scale of starvation and death in the Ukraine? somehow I feel that unlikely, sure it may have been pitched as a struggle or conflict but I'm not sure the huge number of victims of this conflict was apparent to many, especially those outside the soviet union
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,198
Kansas
was the world at large, or Sartre for the purposes of this discussion, aware of the scale of starvation and death in the Ukraine? somehow I feel that unlikely, sure it may have been pitched as a struggle or conflict but I'm not sure the huge number of victims of this conflict was apparent to many, especially those outside the soviet union
Yeah that was undoubtedly a factor. Even today there is discussions about just how many victims the event produced. When you have 100% state run press, you really can sell whatever narrative you want
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,091
was the holodomor widely-known in the 1930s, though? I didn't think so, I didn't think much information emerged out of the USSR about the negative elements of Soviet society

w/r/t the late-1930 purges, i thought the Stalinist line was that they were purging Trotskyist/other counter-revolutionaries? perhaps if one really wanted to believe, they might believe that?
Famine in the 30s/40s was hardly likely to phaze anyone... there was famine in India in the 40s and China as well....

However the "Moscow Trials" were widely publicized and it was a sad show.... Orwell , Koestler and others would denounce them in their books (even if indirectly)... It took a special kind of blindess to not see the implications....
But some would rationalize these kinds of things as a "necessary evil"... after all it was not easy (according to them) to fight the evil capitalists....

It's the old "you need to break eggs to make an omelett" (to which some responded craftily "I've seen many broken eggs, but still have not tasted the omelett)
 
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mark87

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,103
Santiago de Chile
In the 1930's there were those who managed to escape the USSR who had been in the GULAG and had seen the Holodomor etc, the french communists refused to believe them and said they were liars and capitalist agents etc. This wasn't a lack of information, this is a case of not caring about those dead so that the revolution can be carried out and following the party line. Sartre after all this went to Cuba in the 1960's and praised the Castro regime and called Che Guevara 'the most complete human being of our century' (the guy that admitted to killing people without trial).
 
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MG1962a

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Mar 2019
2,198
Kansas
....

However the "Moscow Trials" were widely publicized and it was a sad show.... Orwell , Koestler and others would denounce them in their books (even if indirectly)... It took a special kind of blindess to not see the implications....
To be fair to the average Russian, if you read 1984 you see how insidious and complete the control of information and thought was.
 
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Oct 2013
1,329
Monza, Italy
Nowadays we're aware that most pro-Soviet intellectuals were blind or naive about what was happening behind the Iron Curtain (and this gives credit to people like Camus and Orwell) but let's not forget that once there wasn't the web, nobody had idea about what was happening for real in China or in Russia. Anyway Sartre deliberately justified the Gulags, at least as far as I know.
 
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Isleifson

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Aug 2013
4,121
Lorraine tudesque
Sartre was an idiot and an womanizer.
Being an womanizer the way he looked was his bigest achievements.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,091
Nowadays we're aware that most pro-Soviet intellectuals were blind or naive about what was happening behind the Iron Curtain (and this gives credit to people like Camus and Orwell) but let's not forget that once there wasn't the web, nobody had idea about what was happening for real in China or in Russia. Anyway Sartre deliberately justified the Gulags, at least as far as I know.
Oh there were some clear signs even when information was controlled

1 - The Moscow trials had been widely publicized
2 - The travel restrictions affecting the average soviet citizen (who simply could not travel out of the USSR) as well as those who wished to visit the USSR
3 - Khrushev denounced publicly the excesses of Stalin's rule in 1956 (this was widely publicized abroad)

BTW Sartre was one of the few who had been allowed to visit the USSR...