A Hundred Years of Communism…

My essay on communism has been published by Quillette

We must give the Bolsheviks their due. Their success in gaining power was astonishing. A ragtag gang of activists and intellectuals, they seized control of Russia in October, 1917, and defended their rule in a vicious, bloody civil war. No one can deny the force of their conviction, or the scale of their courage, or the keenness of their talents.

But wielding power was a different matter. Revolutionaries dream that crops will grow out of their fire but in most cases it leaves scarred and arid earth instead. Collectivisation, with its monstrous violence and inefficiency, left millions dead in Russia, Ukraine and the Caucasus. Paranoia and persecution, all too evident in Lenin’s “cleansing” of “harmful insects” — landowners, dissidents and priests the Bolsheviks interned, starved, tortured and killed — reached its absurd apotheosis in Stalin’s purges.

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3 Responses to A Hundred Years of Communism…

  1. Simon says:

    I still wonder how much of the relative social acceptability of Marxist-Leninist ideology can be chalked up to the USSR’s role in winning WW2 for the Allies, and as ugly as the USSR might have been it was still less hellish than a what world under Axis rule would be like! (of course in China the bulk of fighting against Imperial Japan was done not by Mao’s communists but the conservative nationalists of the Kuomintang)

    That said, I think this depends quite a bit by country: I get the impression that Soviet apologia is oddly enough still acceptable in UK academic circles, but it absolutely is career suicide here in Denmark even on most of the far left! One Danish author, Arne Herløv Petersen, who was a very respected name in the 1960s and 1970s saw his career basically deep-six almost overnight when his open admiration of the USSR became socially unacceptable during the sudden rightwards cultural shift in the 1980s, to the point he was dragged through court for false accusations of spying for the KGB that ruined his career even though he was found innocent. (my day job is doing marketing for the only publishing house currently willing to distribute his books)

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    • bsixsmith says:

      I find that obnoxious. Hamsen and Celine were great writers *and* Nazis. I haven’t read Petersen but if he is a great writer *and* a communist the latter does not invalidate the former. As far as I can tell, good for your publishing house.

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      • Simon says:

        Yeah, it’s borderline surreal to see an artist’s social status plummet overnight because of a sudden political re-alignment in the culture at large making his ideological loyalties unfashionable.

        Like

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