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: 0520239725

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.

Stalin: History in an Hour












Communist movement) dissolved into national narratives of trauma and guilt upon the ideology’s extinction. Terror and mass murder seem to still keep Communist states separated in terms of both memory and history. And considerable challenges remain in integrating the massive trauma caused by Communist regimes into what we call today European history. The problem is that most of the crimes are also crimes of national Communist regimes; that is to say, the gulag (I use the term here as a metaphor

or cultural, as well as no repressive institution, escaped continuous and systematic party intervention. Even during the climactic terrorist period (1948–53), the secret police served as the party’s obedient instrument and not the other way around. Indeed, as one scholar stated, “The USSR, in other words, did not keep two sets of books, at least on ideological questions.”18 Ideological purity and revolutionary vigilance were imposed as main political imperatives. Political police, cast in the

Salvation will come through the proletariat, that witness to present inhumanity. It is the proletariat that, at a time fixed by the evolution of productive forces and by the courage of the combatants, will turn itself into a class that is universal and will take charge of the fate of mankind.14 It was indeed the fate of Marxism to pretend to be in charge of the destiny of humanity by impersonating, in a simultaneously tragic and optimistic way, the solution to mankind’s millennia-long agonies,

the obsession with partiinost’ (partisanship), the unbounded acceptance of the party line (philosophy, sociology, and aesthetics had to be subordinated to party-defined “proletarian interests,” hence the dichotomy between “bourgeois” and “proletarian” social science). However, in the context of the Russian proletariat’s underdeveloped class consciousness, Lenin, on the occasion of the 1905 revolution, revealed, Bolshevism, Marxism, Russian Tradition | 105 according to Ana Krylova, “the ‘true

construction) and what had to be rejected as bad (that which was harmful to the process of communist construction). In performing this ontological function, the telos therefore provided the party with an idea of the meaning of the material world. This idea was unchallengeable and kept the discourse from fragmenting. . . . there could be no commentary on the way in which the system was structured for such commentary would be a denial of the truth of the telos, a denial of the idea that the actions

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