Further to this post (and the link at end),
what unites certain “isms”. Excerpts from a review in the Times Literary Supplement, January 4, pp. 7-8 (full text may be available here)–though I would not equate “ordinary” fascism with the German variety:
Casualties of progress
Vladimir Tismaneanu [more here]
THE DEVIL IN HISTORY
Communism, Fascism, and some lessons of the twentieth century
Discussing the Declaration of the Rights of Toiling and Exploited People promulgated in the Soviet Union in January 1918, in which sections of the population regarded as “former people” were disenfranchised, Vladimir Tismaneanu writes: “It can hardly be considered a coincidence that the term byvshie liudi (former people), which became commonplace in Bolshevik speak, implied that those to whom it applied were not quite human”. The disenfranchised groups included functionaries of the tsarist police and military, class aliens who lived off unearned income, clergy of all religions and anyone economically dependent on those so far listed. Debarred from the rationing system (for many the chief source of sustenance), liable to have their property confiscated, and prohibited from seeking public office, people in these categories - along with their families, since being a former person was defined as an inheritable condition - were excluded from society. The system of categories, Tismaneanu writes, was “the prototype taxonomy for the terror that was to follow in later years”. Denying some human groups the moral standing that normally goes with being a person, this act formed the basis for the Soviet project of purging society of the human remnants of the past.
It is also one of the grounds for Tismaneanu’s belief that in important respects Communism and Fascism were at one. He is clear that “Communism is not Fascism, and Fascism is not Communism. Each totalitarian experiment has its own irreducible attributes”. Even so, the two were alike in viewing mass killing as a legitimate instrument of social engineering…
An ambitious and challenging rereading of twentieth-century history, The Devil in History is most illuminating in showing that parallels between the two totalitarian experiments existed from the beginning. Tismaneanu confesses to being baffled by what he describes as “the still amazing infatuation of important intellectuals with the communist Utopia”. “It is no longer possible to maintain and defend a relatively benign Lenin”, he writes, “whose ideas were viciously distorted by the sociopath Stalin.” Unlike Stalin, Lenin showed no signs of psychopathology. Rather than being an expression of paranoia, methodical violence and pedagogic terror were integral features of Bolshevik doctrine. By their own account, Lenin and his followers acted on the basis of the belief that some human groups had to be destroyed in order to realize the potential of humanity. These facts continue to be ignored by many who consider themselves liberals, and it is worth asking why.
…Lenin may have held to a version of humanism, but it was one that excluded much of actually existing humankind…
…If radical evil consists in denying the protection of morality to sections of humankind, the regime founded by Lenin undoubtedly qualifies. We are left with the question why so many liberals disregard these facts…
No flipping kidding.
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute
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