The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century

The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century

Vladimir Tismaneanu

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0520282205

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Devil in History is a provocative analysis of the relationship between communism and fascism. Reflecting the author’s personal experiences within communist totalitarianism, this is a book about political passions, radicalism, utopian ideals, and their catastrophic consequences in the twentieth century’s experiments in social engineering. Vladimir Tismaneanu brilliantly compares communism and fascism as competing, sometimes overlapping, and occasionally strikingly similar systems of political totalitarianism. He examines the inherent ideological appeal of these radical, revolutionary political movements, the visions of salvation and revolution they pursued, the value and types of charisma of leaders within these political movements, the place of violence within these systems, and their legacies in contemporary politics.

The author discusses thinkers who have shaped contemporary understanding of totalitarian movements—people such as Hannah Arendt, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Camus, François Furet, Tony Judt, Ian Kershaw, Leszek Kolakowski, Richard Pipes, and Robert C. Tucker. As much a theoretical analysis of the practical philosophies of Marxism-Leninism and Fascism as it is a political biography of particular figures, this book deals with the incarnation of diabolically nihilistic principles of human subjugation and conditioning in the name of presumably pure and purifying goals. Ultimately, the author claims that no ideological commitment, no matter how absorbing, should ever prevail over the sanctity of human life. He comes to the conclusion that no party, movement, or leader holds the right to dictate to the followers to renounce their critical faculties and to embrace a pseudo-miraculous, a mystically self-centered, delusional vision of mandatory happiness.

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Conspirators in Prerevolutionary Russia (New York: Viking Press, 1977). 88. Robert Mayer, “Lenin and the Jacobin Identity in Russia,” Studies in East European Thought 51 (1999): 127-54. Also see Mayer, “Lenin, the Proletariat, and the Legitimation of Dictatorship,” Journal of Political Ideologies 2 (February 1997): 99-115; and “Plekhanov, Lenin and Working-Class Consciousness,” Studies in East European Thought 49 (September 1997): 159-85. 89. See Maximilien Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, ed.

was ascribed to the subjected peoples.”27 The main weakness of this system, however, was its chronic deficit of legitimacy. Under mature Stalinism, both in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, autocratic despotism ruined the functioning of the party as an autonomous institution, its potential for “charismatic impersonalism” inherent in Leninism as an organizational model. This phenomenon explains the neotraditionalist features of Stalinism. If one follows Ken Jowitt's argument, the mutation of

best formulations of their own thoughts and beliefs. They fully internalized a diabolical pedagogy based upon a belief in being ordained as both juror and executioner, for their legitimacy drew from a fanatical obedience to the vozhd. When Stalin died, his East European disciples were orphaned: more than their parties’ supporter, they lost their protector, the embodiment of their highest dreams, the hero they had come to revere, the symbol of their vigor, passion, and boundless enthusiasm. The

muddling through” characteristic of his predecessors.79 Ultimately, his staunch belief in the possibility of simultaneously dismantling “Stalinist socialism” (a formula used by the weekly Literaturnaya gazeta in May 1988) and refounding the Soviet polity lies at the heart of the paradoxes that brought about the collapse of the Moscow center. Retrospectively, this approach, which proved fatally contradictory, leaves us with a historical image of Gorbachev best described by political scientist

and Hitler would not have been able to achieve their goals had they not known how to regiment, mobilize, and include large social strata in their efforts. Whereas Bolshevism was primarily a repressive ideocratic dictatorship, Nazism was, at least for its first years in power, a consensus dictatorship. Both represented the triumph of ideological constructs rooted in scientism, organicism, historicism, and voluntarism. For Lenin, class struggle was the ultimate justification for the ruthless

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