Truth be told, both Stalin and Lenin, as well as Adolf Hitler, all knew and believed Karl Marx’s dissertation that sub-groups of peoples must be done away with.
“Among all the nations and sub-nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and are still capable of life — the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary. All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary holocaust. For that reason they are now counter-revolutionary. …these residual fragments of peoples always become fanatical standard-bearers of counter-revolution and remain so until their complete extirpation or loss of their national character … [A general war will] wipe out all these racial trashdown to their very names. The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.” Karl Marx, The Revolutions of 1848, Political Writings Vol. 1, London, Penguin Books, 1973.
Stalin: Lenin’s faithful heir
The Soviet dictator’s unshakable faith in the Marxist-Leninist theory makes his crimes a continuation of the Russian Revolution, not a betrayal of it
- Image Credit: Agency
- Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin, as his biographer puts it, “intensified the insanity inherent in Leninism” — but his actions were mostly sanctified by that ideology
Stalin, Volume 1: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, by Stephen Kotkin, Allen Lane, 976 pages, £30
Can we ever understand the mind of a mass murderer and dictator?
The question was raised by Martin Amis at a recent Financial Times event when talking about his latest novel on the Holocaust, “The Zone of Interest”. In the case of Hitler, Amis argued, it was near-impossible to grasp what lay behind the Nazi leader’s crimes. The killing of millions of innocents for no reason other than blind hatred hovers at the outer edges of — if not beyond — human comprehension.
Amis referred to the writings of Primo Levi, a survivor of Auschwitz, who was told by one camp guard: “Hier ist kein warum” (There is no why here). “[T]here is no rationality in the Nazi hatred; it is a hate that is not in us; it is outside man …” Levi wrote.
That problem, however, becomes a lot more complex when dealing with the other mass-murdering tyrant of Europe’s 20th century: Stalin. Amis suggested that it was possible to understand Stalin’s actions, no matter how monstrous his regime may have been. His hatred was inside man.
Stephen Kotkin’s monumental biography of Stalin could be presented as Exhibit A for the Amis thesis.
Arguably, Kotkin knows as much about Stalin as any historian: he has already written an important work on Stalinism viewed from the ground up and has taught Russian history at Princeton University for many years. It is a measure of Kotkin’s powers of research and explanation that Stalin’s decisions can almost always be understood within the framework of his ideology and the context of his times — at least during the early days of power covered by this first book in a projected three-volume biography. There was more often than not a Why in Stalin’s Russia.
That is not to say that Stalin’s story is anything but fantastical: how a Georgian cobbler’s son born in an outpost of the Tsarist empire could help shatter the shackles of a 300-year dynasty, emerge as the supreme leader of one-sixth of the world’s landmass, and reshape the destiny of millions.
Nor is it to deny the irrationality of the entire Leninist project: that violence, murder and mass repression are permissible today to build a more peaceful and just tomorrow. As Kotkin puts it, Stalin “intensified the insanity inherent in Leninism” — but his actions were mostly sanctified by that ideology.
More here. H/T: Fjordman