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.

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anticapitalism. I will not dwell on the validity of counterpoising Communism with capitalism; it is a dead end. It just reproduces the original Manichean Marxist revolutionary ethos of the Communist Manifesto. It is endearing to a certain extent, for one’s beliefs should be respected, but it is irrelevant if we seek to understand the tragedy of the twentieth century. The employment of anti-anti-utopianism in the discussion of left-wing totalitarianism is just another way of avoiding the truth. To

Revolution . . . of the Soviet Union as socialist hierophany.”64 The biographies of the ideological elites in Soviet-type regimes were usually colorless and lacked any moment of real distinction. In Eastern Europe, the ideological watchdogs were recruited from the Muscovite factions of the ruling parties. In Hungary, József Révai, once one of Georg Lukács’s promising disciples, became a scourge of intellectual life. Révai was a member of the Hungarian delegation to various Cominform meetings and

unprecedented break with all liberal values and traditions, including the pluralist ethos of international social democracy. Going beyond the established comparisons between Hitler and Stalin, historian Robert Gellately brought Lenin back into the story of totalitarian political movements as the true architect of the Bolshevik dictatorship, Prologue | 5 the real founder of the gulag system, a fervent ideologue convinced that his vanguard party (a revolutionary political invention that

rational mastery of the world with the aspiration for individual liberation. The Leninist party is dead (it is quite ironic that the Gennady Zyuganov–style epigones of the Communist Party of the Russian Fed- Bolshevism, Marxism, Russian Tradition | 117 eration combine Slavophile orthodoxy, xenophobia, imperialism, and Bolshevik nostalgia in a baroque nationalist-cum-egalitarian collectivistic blending).138 But the cult of the party as a sacred institution, the sectarian vision of a community

it is doubtful that the growth of civil society should be seen as a source of fundamental political change in the communist world rather than as a consequence of it.”98 It was “institutional amphibiousness”99 that caused most of the transformations. In other words, institutions designed to foster and legitimize the system (ideological departments, the party academy, theoretical journals, and think tanks) came to undermine the role they were supposed to play. This point indeed clarifies the

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