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Stalin's daughter on her life in Wisconsin (2010) (madison.com)
128 points by gruseom 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 121 comments






That doesn't work either. Paywall.

https://outline.com/BNU45U

I wrapped that into outline. Last paragraph was missing though:

"Wherever I go," she said, "here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I always will be a political prisoner of my father's name."


It worked for me.

Though it wasn't very interesting tbh


Thanks. The original is blocked from GDPR countries.

Has anyone read Montefiore's Young Stalin and Court of the Red Tzar? Those books were an absolutely wild ride. Stalin really comes across as one of the more unusual characters of history. No one in his native Georgia liked him, so they were happy to dish dirt on his youth and give the full story free of obvious glorification.

I think the most unusual characteristics of his story was that everyone tried to control him. First, the priests at the seminary by disciplining him, then his father, who wanted him to be a shoe cobbler, then the czars by putting him in prison and exiling him, then his fellow party members by trying to out politic him, and absolutely nothing worked on him. The guy did not budge an inch from his mission or ever got discouraged no matter what happened. The guy, like a serial killer, was completely emotionally unmoved and undeterred by any obstacle or opinion of anyone.

They put him in prison, he started taking control of the prison. They sent him to Siberia he came back and dove right back into revolution after always seeming to father an illegitimate child while in exile. He remembered everyone who he ever met and punished them or rewarded them later accordingly. He seemingly did everything for the sole purpose of global Marxist revolution and he got rid of anyone, or group of people or thing that got in his way. He wasn't even vulnerable to flattery. He was just dead set and committed to his goal of global marxist revolution and brutal vengeance against all his enemies who tried to keep him from achieving that.


A very different picture from memoires of people who saw his later years in power. A man totally frightened about losing power, and insecure about his unpopularity. When he finally got to the stage of "things being upon him" and virtually everybody in his immediate entourage getting hostile to him, he wept and kept sending firing squads.

Afaik, his father wanting him to be shoe cobbler is odd choice of "trying to control him out of his will" given that his father was very violently abusive too. The priest trying to control him is kind of odd framing of priest wanting him to return to school. Nor it is out of ordinary for borderline violent youngster (he fought other boys in streets while in school) with violent father to rebel against system/authorities around seeking retaliation.

He had pathological need for control and was violent. But, analysis that ignores other violent influences in his life and put all on strength of his will is kind of missing something.

Stalin had intense rages, yelling and swearing. He was insecure about host of things, sensitive to criticism or slights and seeked to punish them with vengeance. That is not exactly unemotional nor really uncaring about opinions of others. He did cared - so much that he tortured for it. You make it sound like he was logically rationally focused on primary goal of communism, but large part of it was him emotional need to be in absolute control and insecurity.


> I think the most unusual characteristics of his story was that everyone tried to control him. First, the priests at the seminary by disciplining him

Priests tried to control him ? He entered the school voluntarily. They did not lock him up. He left of his own accord and priests encouraged him to return. I don't think that was 'trying to control him'

> He seemingly did everything for the sole purpose of global Marxist revolution

Stalin's policy was 'Socialism in one country'. Apart from some modest actions like supporting the Spanish communists in the Spanish Civil War etc, he did not work that hard to advance the Marxist revolution abroad.


Introduction to Wikipedia's article for "Socialism in one country" [0]:

> Socialism in one country was a theory put forth by Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin in 1924 which was eventually adopted by the Soviet Union as state policy. The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1923 except Russia, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally.

> This turn toward national communism was a shift from the previously held position by classical Marxism that socialism must be established globally. However, proponents of the theory argue that it contradicts neither world revolution nor world communism. The theory was in opposition to Leon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism_in_One_Country


This makes perfect sense: you do away with nationalism, since in their view socialism knows no boundaries and should trump all. The same they say for Islamic Caliphates, you're an Algerian or Malian, you're a Muslim, obey the word of god and that trumps all.

> Stalin's policy was 'Socialism in one country'

He started a war with Finland, signed a treaty with Germany to split Poland, helped communists in China and North Korea and set communist regimes in all countries that soviet Army freed from Germany.

Also some historians think that Stalin had plans to start a war with Germany, but Germany started the war several days sooner (For instance Mark Solonin talks about this).


Ah, I am wrong about this. Thanks for the correction

USSR was willing to go to war with Germany as early as 1938 but France didn’t want to, and Poland refused to allow Soviet movement thru their country.

> Apart from some modest actions like [Stalin] supporting the Spanish communists in the Spanish Civil War etc, he did not work that hard to advance the Marxist revolution abroad.

Yet I recall that in ‘Homage to Catalonia’, George Orwell says that Stalin undermined the Marxist cause...

Although it could be my bad memory, or Orwell's lack of understanding...

Not that I know anything about Marxism!!!


I'm a poor historian, but my understanding was that Lenin was the Marxism-oriented one, while Stalin, who murdered Lenin, by slowly poisoning him by putting heavy metals in his hat, highjacked the revolution and went on a mass-murderous power-grabbing rampage. Reading back the end of my last sentence, I'm obviously skewing this against Stalin, reducing his legacy to murder and egomania, but my main point is that he is seen by some (many?) to have highjacked the revolution.

And many see Lenin's October revolution as hijacking the February one for his own murderous egomania. But often this just this seems like a way of pretending there was some pure utopian vision which was unfortunately corrupted, every time. In reality total power is always total power.

Independent enthusiasm was welcomed when it was minor and useful (like in western communist parties, or the recruiting of western volunteers for Spain) but crushed completely if it had any chance of getting in the way of naked power (like the pre-war Polish communists, almost all murdered).


> Independent enthusiasm was welcomed when it was minor and useful (like in western communist parties, or the recruiting of western volunteers for Spain) but crushed completely if it had any chance of getting in the way of naked power (like the pre-war Polish communists, almost all murdered).

True believers are vulnerable because they are too stupid or too delusional to realize the weakness of their cookie cutter ideology. Invariably, true believers are converted to useful idiots if there is anyone who wants them (or sometimes upgraded to cynical tyrants).


I think it's pretty disingenuous to pretend like "true believers" and "blinded by utopian visions" are legitimate talking points when you consider that at the time most countries were recovering from one or two world wars and there was a literal standing army of Nazis with known explicit goals to eradicate and/or dominate Jews and Socialists.

This isn't "you gotta crack some eggs to make an omelet", this is "everybody is cracking eggs and you're next".

If anything, you're expressing a heavily idealized version of a very complex, difficult, and dangerous time.


While Stalin certainly bis one of the greatest mass murderers in history, it should be noted that concentration camps, summary executions, mass reprisals etc. etc. where pioneered by Lenin who did not even shy away from calling them such. Whether Stalin offed him, or complications of syphilis were sufficient, had he lived longer it is unlikely that the death toll would have been significantly different.

the bit about poisoning is speculative, nobody really knows

> "Stalin, who murdered Lenin"

This is not commonly accepted history. Speculation at best.


> Stalin's policy was 'Socialism in one country'

Although he did annex quite a few of neighbours into that one country.


He seemingly did everything for the sole purpose of global Marxist revolution

How did you arrive at that conclusion from either of these books? (I'm actually asking, not trying to take you to task for it).


>>The guy, like a serial killer, was completely emotionally unmoved and undeterred by any obstacle or opinion of anyone.

Go big or go home. No doubt not-Stalins were kind and caring and preached Marxism (as they understood it) but they didn't make it that far. Stalins survived. (Survivor bias)

Radical changes can be done only via brutal force. You're talking about property confiscations, massive killings, jailing etc etc.

Now that's a shock: "I have a person here who states she's Stalin's daughter, and we believe she's genuine; unless you instruct me to the contrary, I’m putting her on the one a.m. plane for Rome where we can stop and think the thing through. I’m not giving her any commitment that she can come to the States. I’m only enabling her to leave India, and we will see her to some part of the world—the U.S. or somewhere else—where she can settle in peace. If you disagree with this, let me know before midnight." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svetlana_Alliluyeva#Political_...


If you want something more extensive and less dramatized, I'd recommend Kotkin's ongoing multi-volume biography starting with Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928. It's becoming (if it isn't already) the definitive work on Stalin.

Yea I’ve read it - it’s one of the best books I’ve read in my life, period.

Stalin comes across as a total sociopath - as you’d probably expect - but what struck me was how cruel he was to his close ones, whether family or political lieutenants. He had the occasional moment of softness but he was otherwise a bully who minced no words in making others feel minuscule.

Another idea that struck me is how all the Soviet top brass were absolute workhorses who squeezed every living hour out of the day, to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. Stalin himself seemed to sleep from 4am to the late morning, which I found curious. Overall there are clear insights on how they won the war and lifted the Soviet empire, other than through despicable actions.

I think the book still makes me think nowadays about the “noble communist” that claims that their version of communism would not be like that, and how they would be the first to be purged.

Overall its an excellent read. It’s exquisitely documented and Sebag Montefiore deserves mad props for developing a fine, subtle sense of humor in the narration of stories that span from the kafkaesque to the satanic - the book would’ve been very hard to digest otherwise.


A general problem with ideology is that people, naturally, only view themselves as the 'winners' in a system. In socialism come communism everybody is going to be a Marx living off a metaphorical Engels writing and indulging their intellectual and philosophical curiosities with no constraints whatsoever. Of course nobody sees themselves as the ones toiling in the fields or industry giving 100% of their labor back to the state, or the 'community' should you prefer to imagine a stateless system, invariably under threat of brutal 'reeducation' to ensure everybody can be 'equal'.

The same is true of extreme laissez faire views. Everybody again sees themselves as those now freed to finally earn and achieve greatness. Nobody sees themselves as those being left trapped under oppressive and aggressively (and completely legally) entrenched forces using every single dirty trick in the book to undermine competition and coercively squeeze every penny they can out of everybody.


It seems from the way you're writing this that you view yourself as non-ideological, but I fail to see how belief in the liberal democratic capitalist state is not also ideological. You make several mistakes about the nature of labour under socialism, for instance, it entails giving labour to the community only insofar as capitalism entails giving it to your boss - and in fact less than this, since even Marx's theory of socialism posits a great reduction in working hours. You also mistake the nature of equality, one which Lenin refuted personally more than 100 years ago[0]. You must first understand what labour means to a human and indeed man's position in relation to his society not only from a capitalist standpoint but from a pre-capitalist (using the tools historical analysis gives us) and post-capitalist viewpoint. The notion of private and individual labour is very new, as is the moral and legal system constructed around it.

It's funny that your stated problem with a laissez faire view is merely the idea of competition squeezing money out of people rather than the much more fundamental one of people being unable to achieve the greatness you speak of because they are too busy working for someone else. It's not a trick to undermine competition, it's the nature of the capitalist system to be trapped so aggressively under these forces.

(Is it just me or is it curious that this post has a downvote and flag within less than one minute of me posting it, which is not enough time to read and assimilate its contents? Boring reading or not, it speaks volumes that someone with 500+ karma, someone given the power by the site to downvote, would rather click the button than make even a name-call response[1] even after spending so much time on HN that the have themselves racked up "insight points".)

[0] https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/mar/11.htm

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Graham%27s_Hierarchy_of_D...


It's likely because this generic ideological stuff that you post has become tedious, and is largely off topic here. I appreciate that you've been careful to remain civil, but can you please dial this (way) back? It's not what the site is for, and has acquired the quality of a droning harangue.

I was very surprised to see something else in your comment history: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19348848. That's good. But the proportions are not.


who squeezed every living hour out of the day

Most of his contemporaries record night after night of hours-long boozing sessions.

Overall there are clear insights on how they won the war

They had, and wantonly threw 10x the people the Germans had into the meatgrinder. It's not like it happened through some particular efficiency.


Anecdote:

When I was 7 or 6 or something, I remember my granddad, who was in the Wehrmacht back then, very often explained to me how they fought during the war.

One of the things which stuck with me was how many more people the Russians had in comparison with the Germans. He once drew on paper to explain how they did something like cross fire where they would just fire with the machine guns so the lines of fire would cross and from down the hill Russians would run up the hill, die on the way up and new Russians would come up the hill without weapons and would take the weapons of the dead Russians and keep on running until they died, then another ones would take their weapons and so on.

I remember him saying it was 2000 Russian soldiers on one German soldier, but I guess that number got mangled through war propaganda, war reality, fear, and rumors on the front.


Through, the definition of soldier on Wehrmacht part was quite loose. Oftentimes it was pretty much anyone living in the area on Easter Front. Don't forget about that when looking at 2000 soldiers vs one German stats.

Your first anecdote was also captured in the opening scene of "Enemy at the Gates", a movie about the Battle of Stalingrad that became one of the turning points of the war.

Do note that the accuracy of "Enemy at the Gates" is dubious at best. Not a good source of facts for the Battle of Stalingrad.

Not only 10x people but also advanced machinery like the T34 which ended up being the best mid-sized tank of the war. Mind you, before 1930 Russia was pretty much 100% agrarian. So yes it took a lot of blood - not only on the battlefield, but also in the farms, where the lives of peasants were ruthlessly traded for machines - but also an astoundingly focused effort at the highest echelons. None of this was organized by people chilling with their feet on the table, casually dispatching orders.

More broadly, the idea that they partied a lot - which is also one of the great story arcs in the book - does not detract from this. Think Wall Street, the Valley, etc.


> but also an astoundingly focused effort at the highest echelons. None of this was organized by people chilling with their feet on the table, casually dispatching orders.

Excuse me, but what you say goes 180 degrees contrary to account of every survivor, and popular public sentiment among the more erudite part of Russian society.

Just every member of political establishment at the time was portrayed as an idle hedonist of no intellectual acumen, but at the same very violent, and easy to snap. And this is the very reason why they gnawed each other to death in the thirties - no lard left, the society expired.

War confiscations, and ones in thirties were well known to end in coffers in mid-level officials, who themselves were a month away from starvation. That goes by account of every well respected person of that generation I knew in my childhood.

The myth of industrialisation is also just a myth. Russia had engineering school of its own, not much behind the German one, and a no joke industry by late ninetieth century. Just it was rather disperse, outdated, and suffering from disintegrated supply chain. Very low profile, and not earning headlines, unlike German one.


There were no 10x people. The Eastern Front statistics in wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Front_(World_War_II):

    Strength

    Year   Axis troops   Allies troops
    1941   3,767,000     2,680,000
    1943   3,933,000     6,724,000
    1945   1,960,000     6,410,000


    Casualties and losses
    5.1 million dead      8.7–10 million dead
Note, also, of the total dead numbers the prisoners died in captivity is 637,000 vs 2,250,000–3,300,000. So the battlefield losses are close for both sides.

Agreed. Not only that, military historians who don't base their knowledge of the Eastern Front solely on German sources, such as David Glantz [0] and Jonathan House [1], claim that when there was superiority of Soviet vs Germans numbers, it was because the Soviets successfully employed concentration of forces, which is a sound military tactic!

That is, to the German caught unawares, it looks as if there is an endless "Asiatic horde" (which was the fascist propaganda to explain losses), but what is actually happening is that the Soviets are successfully concentrating their forces by thinning them down where they aren't needed, and achieving greater numbers where they are needed. Good operational warfare that is, and the Soviets excelled at this. Also, a lot of the time the Germans were unaware of Soviet reserves, so that fresh forces would appear when they weren't expecting them.

The self-serving memories of Wehrmacht Generals mostly conveniently "forgot" about this, and so the myth of the endless Asiatic hordes was born.

There's a fascinating YouTube video [2] where House (Jonathan, not Hugh Laurie!) dismantles the three usual German alibis of why they were defeated:

1- Hitler interfered too much and was the cause of every blunder.

2- "General Winter".

3- "The Asiatic Horde".

----

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Glantz

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_House

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zinPbUZUHDE


Not only 10x people but also advanced machinery like the T34

The egregious waste of human life was ok because of advanced machinery?

the idea that they partied a lot - which is also one of the great story arcs in the book - does not detract from this. Think Wall Street, the Valley

I dunno, I did a fair bit of partying in Silicon Valley and I think the the fact that, however ill-advised and harmful, this didn't exterminate millions of people tends to detract from whatever 'this' is supposed to be quite a bit.


The parent never said that the development and successful use of the tanks made the human losses okay, only that the Soviet victory wasn't solely due to overwhelming numbers.

I dunno, I did a fair bit of partying in Silicon Valley and I think the the fact that, however ill-advised and harmful, this didn't exterminate millions of people tends to detract from whatever 'this' is supposed to be quite a bit.

Again, the parent only explained that partying and hard work aren't mutually exclusive, not that this somehow makes Stalin's actions okay.


Another idea that struck me is how all the Soviet top brass were absolute workhorses who squeezed every living hour out of the day, to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.

The explicit idea here is that Soviet success was a function of the exceptionally hard work of leadership.


Which might very well be true, at least in part. I still don't see how this relates to my or your comments. Hard work and a disregard for human lifes can go hand in hand. Just because someone works hard for a cause that doesn't make that cause right; and acknowledging the hard work isn't the same as condoning the terrible things achieved through that work.

Hard work and a disregard for human lifes can go hand in hand.

They can, but one of these things endlessly colours the way we morally judge them. No amount of hard work makes up for a disregard for human life.


Exactly, and nobody in this thread ever claimed otherwise.

Another idea that struck me is how all the Soviet top brass were absolute workhorses who squeezed every living hour out of the day, to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. Stalin himself seemed to sleep from 4am to the late morning, which I found curious. Overall there are clear insights on how they won the war and lifted the Soviet empire, other than through despicable actions.

Maybe I'm misinterpreting it but this reads to me like 'the soviet leadership worked really hard and that won the war'.


Oh, I interpreted that as "hard work AND despicable actions won the war". I apologise for my dismissive comments in case your interpretation is correct.

I don't think you have anything to apologize for. It's just that 'Stalin worked really hard' is both ahistorical and despicable, as any sort of explanation. It's not a claim you made.

What you are saying is just senseless. The USSR had less population than the Axis, especially when 30% of it was under occupation.

You're just spouting bullshit written by the Germans after the war to justify their defeat.


"Вы меня сейчас повесите, но я не одна, нас двести миллионов, всех не перевешаете. Вам отомстят за меня…"

If anything, I'd be spouting Soviet propaganda!


Where do you get the "10x people"?

The ratio of dead alone is something like 5 to 1.

It isn't, neither total death nor military loses. (And how would 5 to 1 death mean 10x people is unclear).

The point of him only sleeping 4 hours, is surely a part of propaganda. Stalin lived slow life in opulent luxury, often sending off his generals during the war so he can finish his meal and have tea.

No offense meant, but if you are going to dispute a book written by one of the internationally recognized experts of the subject who has access to far more archive material that you or I will ever have, something more substantial that “surely [insert opinion here]” would be most welcome.

But that does sound an awful lot like propaganda. They say the same thing about Trump actually. And basically every dictator is said to have some sort of super human abilities and determination. Not needing much sleep is a very common one.

Stalin and Trump aren't known for their good judgement and rationality.

Just because they're capable of physically staying awake without much sleep, doesn't make them so superhuman as to remain unaffected by doing so.


Not 4 hours, 4am til late morning - noon. He had his dachas and opulent dinners but he was relentless at work - no way he lived a slow life.

The book is written by a Cambridge-trained historian who did a painstaking work of documentation, including reviewing previously inaccessible Russian archives and interviewing just about every possible Stalin relative and survivor at the time of writing.


> Cambridge-trained historian

Cambridge historian will he be, but he just reverberates the commodity propaganda. Stalin was closing on the godhood in just every written source.

I'll give you an analogy: if some super secret North Korean state archives claim that Kim had no anus, would the Cambridge trained historian claim the same just because of that? Common sense would be lacking there, as it is in popular Western depictions of Stalin. I would not be surprised that people were flattering the guy even in their private notes, for the fear of them being found not doing that enough.

Any well schooled Russian person has a more or less complete idea of who he was as a person. Now, would somebody be a Cambridge-trained historian or not, would he know more of how such type of people live without "feeling and breathing" their will and presence? I'll trust the popular hearsay more than work of acclaimed historian then.

Almost every Western account of Soviet despots made me laugh, trying to find some fine, intriguing, sophisticated persona, where there were none. Why are they trying so hard at that?

To me, it feels that Western historians often pull more effort to rehabilitate the soviets than the contemporary revisionist propaganda.


I've been reading recently books on the former Soviet Union. "Beria, my Father" by Sergo Beria, "Krushcev" by William Taubman, "Conversations with Molotov" by Feliks Ciuev...

Then tried "Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva" by Rosemary Sullivan but could't finish it. Compared with the 'bad guys' her biography is just dull.


She had an autobiography. "20 letters to a friend" or something like this, I liked reading it a lot just because of how short and personal it was.

Apparently this was read out in some radio program and is now available for listening at https://archive.org/details/20LettersToaFriend

edit: nevermind, seems to be an excerpt only. Recorded by BBC in 2017 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dd3t9



How very NY Post of them to whittle Stalin down to "man of steel" who vaguely led a "brutal regime". Yes, Mao Zedong: man of books, who notably disrupted the production of food.

By any measure, she lives an ordinary life; why dig this up if they don't hold some secret admiration for the first contractor to the architect of the most devastating and heinous genocide in human history? I mean, maybe it's just a morbid fascination, but I find it kinda suspect.


I do think that history isn't nearly as hard on him as it should be. He is easily as bad as Pol Pot or Hitler.

But my college roommate got the symbol of Stalin's state tattooed on him because he said it was cool and ironic. This disgusted our friend who's parent's escaped communist Poland, but nobody really cared. Of course, if he had got a swastika tattoo he would have essentially written himself out of society, however you are permitted to express admiration of communism without really getting in trouble.


Yet this critique of ideological association never seems to come into play regarding the US's genocides in south America, or Britian's starvation of India.

Well, anti-communism had nothing to do with those. Just as it hadn’t with the genocide of some Germanic tribes comitted by Caesar, for example.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men... — Lord Acton

“Good guy, bad guy”... Let’s grow up already, shall we?


I know many Russians are disturbed by this, but character is a continuity and Stalin was right on the bottom of it.

And for a little background, even though Svetlana is a relatively minor character in it, don't miss The Death of Stalin - surely one of the best black comedies of recent years.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4686844/


EU citizens cannot access this site. So, use the Wayback Machine copy. Apparently, comments like this are buried down and repeated.

Why is that? GDPR reasons?

Yes, “451: Unavailable due to legal reasons” and then some details about the GDPR (but not saying why).

My guess is a local news outlet that’s big enough to know about the legal requirements but doesn’t actually see any value in doing the compliance work.


Yup. Happens every now and then.

451: Unavailable due to legal reasons

We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time. For any issues, contact hostmaster@madison.com or call 800-362-8333.


I don't get the sites who expend resources and effort to implement this, but not actually implement GDPR compliance. You're either under jurisdiction or not, but this half-implementation is extremely odd.

It's not a half implementation. They just don't want to comply so they restrict access from this geographic area.

Maybe someone should do an extension to rename those "errors"

"Unavailable due to failure to understand the rules" or "Unavailable because abusing our visitors information is forbidden"


It costs money to hire lawyers to understand the laws and ensure compliance. Maybe they ran the numbers and it wasn't worth it to hire the lawyers.

If you don’t collect too much data beeing GDPR compliant is not hard at all.

If you don’t know what data you collect becausae of all that reliance on third part extensions or if you heavily collect data and don’t want to break the law, this gets a harder topic.

Beeing an European it was quite interesting to see how little many web developers know about their dependencies and extensions. Most I know thought they can solve GDPR problems by install yet another wordpress addon they didn’t program.


You shouldn't bellitle them. A person doing a small business should not be required to understand GDPR nor technicalities of WP plugins. We should strive for simple to understand policies and technologies, just as the others are trying e.g. to make better furniture for us IT people. Making a website absolutely should not require computer science and law degrees.

I agree with you (there is probably a couple WP plugins that do the blocking). Though there are a lot of issues that even a small WP site is subject to (security, IP laws, etc)

I don’t. I have to work with these very people ever so often and I understand how hard it must to navigate in that environment.

However if you are professionally building and selling websites in the EU you probably should be aware of the consequences and side effects your decisions have.

Many (small business) webpages have no real need for cookies, cross site tracking, etc — they are probably better off with a fast static website than some sort of dynamic complexity monster. If you apply the principles of form follows function and data economy here you should get blazingly fast sites without third party trackers and any need for cookies and therefore automatically comply with the GDPR and have no need to display a notice which is another plus.

The reason why it is not that way, is because that professional who used wordpress with a ton of addons for the past decade, doesn’t understand how his decisions tie into it. They don’t understand that it is possible to build websites that won’t collect personal user data, because they don’t need to. They tell their clients they have to display these notices and they don’t tell them about the trade offs involved.

I understand that, if you used a mostly free tool and you never really cared about the privacy of your clients visitor, the GDPR is yet another annoying issue on your list of annoying issues — but if you mislead your clients like that, you are either not informing yourself propperly or you are misleading them willingly.

The educational environment surely is to blame for that too. Sure here is how easy you can include that facebook like button — but we won’t tell you about the consequences for the privacy of your users. Just use google analytics or google fonts or that captcha no worries, it is just a cool thing to include, everybody does it so it can’t be wrong.


Yes they should. Because GDPR arose from blatant misuse and abuse.

> Making a website absolutely should not require computer science and law degrees.

Making a website absolutely should not require that you track your users and are careless with your users personal information.

Thank you GDPR for trying to be the common sense the internet needs.


If it is the only way to make money with said website, then we need to provide better technologies before we demand such things (after we've been perfectly okay with it for the past 15 years) - we might easily destroy livelihood of many people. Not a nice thing to do.

We haven't been okay with it.

Blatant abuse is not a nice thing to do and ethically and morally wrong. Society shouldn't be nice toward people that try to exploit others for personal gain.

We wouldn't need GDPR if people had a shred of decency.


Agreed. It’s a local newspaper in Wisconsin. They probably don’t have a single programmer on staff and get consulting ad hoc to fix issues with their Wordpress installation or whatever. I suspect they asked “what’s the cheapest way for us not get sued for GDPR?” the consultant asked “what percentage of your readers are in Europe?”, and when they relied “approximately zero,” the consultant said “I can just block those IPs for a hundred bucks.” Much easier than trying to understand what “tracking cookies” are when you don’t even understand what a web server is.

Did they ran the numbers on the amount of visitors from the EU they have?

Here's your GDPR compliance for sites that don't take your name or other data directly: don't store the full ip address and don't track the user.


"451: Unavailable due to legal reasons

"We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time. For any issues, contact hostmaster@madison.com or call 800-362-8333."


I always read that "we really need your personal data for no good reason but the EU won't let us, god bless America!"

It really should be a 500 error, not a 400.

Edit: Listen, USA, it's not so difficult, and we all really need to stop siphoning off everyone's data like it's no big deal, laws or not. I wrote some stuff for the GDPR, just had to remove some emails from our database, and honestly, we shouldn't have been collecting them in the first place and neither should you. This surveillance capitalism we're all building is not a good thing and you should not be complicit in it.


How familiar are you with internet laws in Malaysia? Because that is probably about how relevant EU laws are for a publisher for a small city in Wisconsin, normally. Until they make the front page of hacker news, that is. Whoever maintains their site is probably very confused at the moment, unless they are a HN reader themselves.

I read it "We don't want to be dragged into anything and your region is hardly a customer anyway."

Or possibly your foreign laws have made it impossible for us to determine if we are in compliance & it’s not worth it to figure out for a hyper local publication whose income comes from local ads.

[flagged]


> That's an utterly disingenuous argument.

> The EU made an attempt at formally codifying a very basic boundary that most everybody intuitively understands - everybody except for the advertising-surveillance industry which remains willfully ignorant

What is disingenuous is that you have tried reduced this argument down to "Everyone agrees with GDPR except for advertisers". Please recognize that plenty of HN users do not agree with GDPR.


It’s totally possible that the site complies with all GDPR requirements but that it still makes business sense for it to block EU users. Verifying that they’re compliant would probably rack up sizeable legal fees, which could be far higher than the revenue they could expect to receive from readers in the EU.

Indeed, I subscribe to that newspaper, and they are not exactly swimming in money. If it's anything like electronic products, getting certified for export to the EU is an expensive proposition, and certainly not a DIY project.

They don't offer their product in any of the EU languages (other than English, which is their first language), and they don't offer product in Euro.

That means they're not targetting EU citizens, and can ignore GDPR.


And have fun getting legal to sign off on that.

Or alternatively, they’re saying that the legislation is so confusing that figuring out how to abide by it is not worth the risk and cost.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

It's not exactly complicated. Either get rid of their tracking cookies (why does a news website need tracking cookies to view an article?), or get consent before they use them.

People don't want to stop tracking their users and so they feign like it's some insanely complex law. It's not complex at all, it's just one that made the thing you used to do illegal, and you need to stop doing it, or get consent before you do it.

If maintaining a persistent session is somehow in the user's interest (say, maintaining an account at a store or online forum or something) then that's a legitimate-business-use exception. If it's for tracking/advertising/etc, then ask for consent, or presumptively don't do it. It's really not complex at all, unless you're being aggressively ignorant about it.


I am no expert, but I highly doubt it is really that simple, especially if the webmasters are particularly risk-averse. And why wouldn’t they be, if Europe is a relatively small portion of their user base? Why pay for an hour of a lawyer’s time, or even an hour of an employee’s time, to attempt to read and evaluate the laws?

It doesn't seem too complicated. Recital 23:

> In order to determine whether such a controller or processor is offering goods or services to data subjects who are in the Union, it should be ascertained whether it is apparent that the controller or processor envisages offering services to data subjects in one or more Member States in the Union. 3Whereas the mere accessibility of the controller’s, processor’s or an intermediary’s website in the Union, of an email address or of other contact details, or the use of a language generally used in the third country where the controller is established, is insufficient to ascertain such intention, factors such as the use of a language or a currency generally used in one or more Member States with the possibility of ordering goods and services in that other language, or the mentioning of customers or users who are in the Union, may make it apparent that the controller envisages offering goods or services to data subjects in the Union.

If this local newspaper isn't offering translations in French or German, and isn't offering subscriptions in Euro or GBP, then they're not ofering services to Europe.


I didn’t mean to imply that the complicated part is determining whether the service is being offered in Europe. This website is apparently already determining who they consider to be would-be European customers. They’re just choosing to serve an error page, rather than serve a law-abiding version of their service.

> Data subjects have the right to request a portable copy of the data collected by a processor in a common format, and the right to have their data erased under certain circumstances.

With ad networks and IP logging does this requirement of erasing and copies become more onerous?


> or get consent before they use them

The only effect the gdpr have is creating endless popups on all sites to accept cookies.

This does not make any sense, because browsers already have setting to block cookies, and users that had even a slightest in cookies had opportunity to use one of many browser extensions to further control the way cookies were stored.

I see gdpr as an effect of beurocrats not understanding the field they are trying to regulate, and trying to implement the wish of a vocal minority.

To address comments of the type "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." I have never worked for a company that uses adds or tracking cookies in any way.


The irony is, popups to accept cookies are not GDPR compliant, unless there's an opt-out option. You cannot force tracking on someone as a condition of loading your website.

(you can, of course, serve generic ads instead, if they opt out, or serve generic ads by default and not show a popup at all)


> Edit: Listen, USA, it's not such a big deal, and y'all really need to stop siphoning off everyone's data like it's no big deal, laws or not. I wrote some stuff for the GDPR, just had to remove some emails from our database, and honestly, we shouldn't have been collecting them in the first place and neither should you. This surveillance capitalism we're all building is not a good thing and you should not be complicit in it.

This is incredibly patronizing. If I build a website in Canada, host it in Canada and primarily target it toward Canadians, don't complain when I have zero interest in learning about EU laws. I don't want to put a cookie popup on my website. I don't want to research GDPR. I don't want to worry about EU copyright law.

I just want to build a website for my users.


> If I build a website in Canada, host it in Canada and primarily target it toward Canadians, don't complain when I have zero interest in learning about EU laws.

You don't need to learn about EU laws, your product isn't covered by GDPR and all that will happen if your product somehow does fall under GDPR AND if it's non-compliant is that a bureaucrat will write a letter to you to either asking for more information or explaining how it's not compliant with suggestions about how to bring it back into compliance.


You may be right, but you're missing the point.

The hypothetical Canadian webmaster probably hasn't seen this comment. If they have, they don't know you, and have no reason to trust your judgment about EU law. They could research it themselves, but that takes time.

Most likely they have literally no idea what GDPR says, and don't care. So they just block the tiny proportion of EU visitors. Which is a completely rational -- it solves their problem at no cost to them.


It’s somewhat tricky. I operate a discourse instance. I have absolutely no desire to collect any personal information on my users(it is a free website and I am an anarchist), but I also live in the US and haven’t looked in to GDPR. The website is a hobby. I pay for the severs myself and do not display ads or use any tracking. I don’t intend to violate GDPR but I don’t know what it’s impkications are. For now I continue to make the site available for all, but if I felt there were legal implications to including Europe, I’d have to decide whether to block that region or do my due diligence. I’d want to include Europe given the subject of my site, but it’s something I haven’t looked in to yet.

I do sometimes view sites that make a big deal out of it as whining, but I admit that I’m not familiar with what compliance requires.


This scenario doesn't get enough attention and sympathy. Things have been going downhill with internet freedoms for a long while, with tech giants usurping content and the way we navigate the web etc. But, living in Sweden, I had not felt such a blow to my freedoms as when these signs started popping up, pretty much over night.

Europeans especially seem to be quite alright with this law since it supposedly only protects them. But a regulation is always, by priciple, a resitriction on some freedom. The GDPR may in fact be quite benign, but to me it's an obvious slippery slope where it is not hard to see this thing indeed evolve into something like the firewall of China. The EU is transparently considering protectionism with things like railways and telecom where foreign nations want to invest in the EU infrastructure. It's naive to think anything else of the internet. The GDPR was the innocent first baby step towards the European Wide Web.


GDPR only matters if your business is based in Europe, or targets European consumers in some substantial way. If you run a Madison, WI local newspaper, you don't need to choose between blocking EU users and following GDPR. You just ignore it and nothing will happen.

To me this seems like the reasonable answer. I guess I don't understand why this Madison website would even care about EU users or GDPR and why it would bother blocking visits it thinks are from the EU?

Because they don't want to get bogged down in EU law? I've had clients with real cross/inter/multi-jurisdictional issues. This would not be one of them.


Right - my point is that a lot of non-EU businesses over-reacted based on a poor understanding of the GDPR. Maybe their CIO read a blog post about American company X closing themselves to European customers, because they truly did attempt to market to Europeans and didn't think complying was worth it, and said 'Well, it ain't to hard to geo-block the EU' and went for it.

"It is so simple! They just need to not have any cookies, advertisements, trackers, A/B testing, email signups, or javascript!"

In your view of the internet, how does a site like this exist?


You do realize that static web-sites is what the internet was built on, right?

It does work! And frankly, it‘s very well suited if all you want to do is display an article.

Maybe i was woooshed here, not sure.


That argument seems to me akin to insisting the internet remain a platform for hobbyists and non-profit organizations. How does this site stay running and pay employees in this purer internet?

By enabling people to subscribe to their content if they deem it worthy. Maybe have a free section where you serve static sites and for your more "in-depth" articles or whatever you make it subscriber-exclusive.

I didn't want to argue we should revert to the internet of the 90's, but saying "how could you ever put anything on the web without cookies, tracking, data gathering?!" seems disingenuous when the internet was literally built without that.

EDIT: Oh, I get it now. We just had different interpretations of what "exist" meant :) For me it was just "a site on the internet that can be reached by other people", for you it was more about the economic viablity. Fair point.


The web we can all look forward to I am sure. Once we start to divide it, the division will continue. Our ability to read stories of real people will be limited by our own attempts to protect the people. I don’t know where this will lead, but it seems something is lost.

[flagged]


The downvoters of that post have been community members for years. I think it's more that this subject is off-topic and has come up so many times that it is now tedious (even though the underlying concern is unfortunately real).

Bye. PS. You should raise the downvote karma threshold perhaps.



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