Thursday, March 28, 2024

Show Me the Man…


…and I will show you the crime.

Total warfare opened an abyss for nearly everyone.  Millions of men were slaughtered by the weapons of progress, and millions more – along with wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters – were forced to adjust to the horror.

The Age of Nihilism: Christendom from the Great War to the Culture Wars, by John Strickland

With this chapter, Strickland examines the first of three ideologies that grew out of the Enlightenment’s removal of God from man and society.  Here, he will examine communism; in subsequent chapters, he will examine nationalism (through the lens of national socialism), and then liberalism. 

…liberalism was dedicated to the individual; nationalism was dedicated to the national community; and socialism was dedicated to the working class…

In each case, the eschatology was a kingdom of posterity: transcendence through progress.  In each case, an impotent attempt at deriving meaning was attempted; impotent, because none of these offered a meaningfully transcendent possibility.

There were glimpses of the old Christendom coming through: the Christmas truce of 1914 – not a formal truce between the warring parties, but informal, on the lines, between and among French, German, and British soldiers, many of whom said enough of this: let’s play football, hold a mass, and sing Christmas songs.

But the underlying current was one of a civilization without a stable culture to support it. 

…an important difference exists between civilization and culture.  The former depends on the latter, drawing from culture the beliefs and values that sustain it.  But when culture dies out, it leaves civilization in a state of rootlessness.

The utopian culture of humanism had died out with the Great War.  Civilization was groping for a culture that could replace it; absent a culture that could sustain civilization, civilization would die as well.  It is here where Strickland offers the three secular ideologies of the Communists, National Socialists, and liberalism as man’s attempts to build culture.

But as we shall see, this therapy could not be accomplished without purgatives and amputations equal in many cases to the effects of the Great War.

Making omelets requires breaking eggs, etc.  Which brings us to a focus on the communists.  Within this post, I will intersperse some of my thoughts of how all of this from one hundred years ago is available to us today in the West – in full flower, out in the open, no longer even hidden under a superficial veneer.

The year 1927 marked the beginning of a new start for the Soviet Union, ten years after the revolution.  Vladimir Lenin had died a few years earlier.  A parade, on Revolution Day, with Joseph Stalin atop the monumental tomb dedicated to Lenin.  Stalin stood there, having staged and executed a ruthless struggle to succeed the founder.

Films were made of the founding and of Lenin.  These adapted the concept of Nietzsche’s “great man,” and Strickland offers the idea that Nietzsche as much as Marx influenced communists and communism’s ideology (or, at least, its implementation).

Lenin managed the party with an iron will that would have impressed the “self-overcoming” creator of Zarathustra.  He overwhelmed his rivals with an intellectual brilliance and violent contempt lacking any pretense of human sympathy.

It strikes me that this need not be driven by a deliberate merging of the two thinkers – Nietzsche and Marx – nor does Strickland suggest this.  It seems, more so, that such a merging of Nietzsche with any impotent ideology (including nationalism and liberalism) is inevitable when the impotence is due to a lack of a transcendent.  Someone or something has to be in charge, at the top.  Always.

Leon Trotsky was present from the beginning – 1917.  When it was announced that the revolution had to begin with a dictatorship, many revolutionaries (Mensheviks) objected, and Trotsky gave his “dustbin of history” speech. 

“You are pitiful, isolated individuals! You are bankrupts. Your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on – into the dustbin of history!”

The speech goes further: utopian indignation chips away at the idea of moral standards.  An entire category of people is dismissed as an obstacle to progress (Obama wasn’t the first to call out those who cling to religion; Hilary Clinton wasn’t the first to separate out the deplorables). 

Only power – or rather the will to power – has value.

Trotsky is ruthless in his policies and practices.  But this can be said of many in leadership at the time.  The secret police – the Cheka – was established.  In a Checkist newspaper, it was announced that the old systems of morality could not exist, nor could the category of “humanity.” 

“Our morality is new, our humanity is absolute for it rests on the bright ideal of destroying all oppression and coercion. …To us all is permitted…in the name of freeing them from all bondage.”

They will be given liberty, good and hard and whether they like it or not:

“Blood?  Let there be blood….”

A social activist, like the artist, works with a lump of marble – in this case, society is that lump.  His objective, however, isn’t the happiness of those in society: anyone who gets in the way will be destroyed.

Just as Nietzsche wrote, “Man is a bridge and not a goal.”  A step into the unknown, into which we are stepping further still, with a human race no longer fixed by any permanent characteristics (what is a woman?).

Of course, Christianity was out, to be replaced with a new religion – one that would emulate the old, but replaced with purely atheistic values.  As in our day, where we have adopted the purely atheistic values of diversity (except in thought), equity (in place of justice), and inclusion (except for those who disagree).  Things like that.

Proletarian Culture (Proletkult): founded on Communist ideology, this was grounded in a violent imperative toward social transformation.  In literature, the wife would no longer sleep with her husband, instead making herself freely available to Red Army soldiers; her husband, slowly but eventually, accepts this role for his wife as the new Soviet woman.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Orthodox Christians were put to death by the thousands.  Churches were closed, icons were smashed, relics were destroyed.  This was not limited to the Orthodox – all who lived any expression of Christianity were crushed, as were those who adhered to Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.  At both an institutional level and an individual level, the attacks against religion were overwhelming and merciless.

Which returns us to Stalin: how was it that he was the one standing atop Lenin’s tomb, and not Trotsky or some other strongman?  Stalin was no intellectual, but he had one skill: he knew where to sit.  He understood that the office of party general secretary would give him tremendous political power, and he was ruthless in building that power and using it. 

He would label rivals as factionalists.  Those on the left were expelled from party membership.  He then turned against the opposition on the right, isolating it.  Now he needed a state of emergency which would allow him to establish his personal dictatorship. 

Several dozen engineers – some of them foreign – were accused of trying to wreck the coal industry in the North Caucasus.  The first example of Stalin’s famous show trials.  He warned:

“We have internal enemies.  We have external enemies.”

The revolution would come from above, not below.  A Leninist approach to progress could never be peaceful. 

“Either we will overcome and crush them, the exploiters, or else they will overcome and crush us, the workers and peasants of the USSR – that’s how the question stands, comrades.”

War Communism: an industrial policy that geared everything toward the state and away from the peasant farmer.  Apparently, Stalin had to kill the peasant farmer in order to save the peasants.  Call it the final solution to the peasant problem of Russia.

These farmers weren’t the material necessary for the new Soviet man – they could live with some independence.  Actions were put in place to shift toward industrial production – it was in factories where the new man could be reborn.  Millions of peasants would have to be moved from villages to cities.  Capital would have to be extracted from the farm to the factory.

Those peasants that happened to grow enough to sell surplus were labeled “kulaks.”  Stalin would order forced requisition; next would come forced collectivization.  Here, “forced” meant forced.  Given a day to comply or else face the consequences, only the poorest peasants saw some advantage in the collectivist scheme. 

Those who hesitated or resisted were either shot on site or sent to labor camps.  Some would slaughter their livestock and destroy their grain reserves before seeing these collectivized.  The result was a famine of unique dimension and proportion, killing millions.  Not a famine due to bad weather or disease, but one of man-made creation. 

What followed was “the Congress of Victors.”  Two-thousand delegates were present, and would stand and cheer for Stalin and his “success.” 

Two plus two equals five – in four years, the objectives of the five-year plan were achieved.  Human will would overcome science and math, or so it was required to believe.  But those handful from the regions hardest hit by famine were dealing with a different reality. 

There was a proposal to replace Stalin with Sergey Kirov.  Kirov, Stalin’s friend (and a rather trusting soul) told Stalin of this proposal.  Stalin thanked him for his open-mindedness.  In the meantime, the ballots were counted, and Stalin’s name was crossed off about one hundred ballots; he had those ballots destroyed – after all, it isn’t who votes or how they vote that matters, but who counts the votes.  Not that this kind of thing happens here….


As the voting was anonymous, he couldn’t know which ones of the two-thousand were the culprits.  There was a simple enough solution: nearly half of the two-thousand would soon enough be arrested.  Within a few years, over ninety percent of the delegates would be shot to death.  The Great Terror.  First came Kirov, Stalin’s friend, who was clearly a magnet for the opposition. 

Stalin would blame Kirov’s assassination on broad conspiracy to overthrow communism.  Many of Kirov’s assassins would then be shot – secret police shooting secret police.  The NKVD was let loose to lay the groundwork for perhaps the deadliest political purge in history.

Some would give up peacefully.  Others begged Stalin, pleading that they were loyal to the extreme.  It didn’t matter.  Show trial would follow show trial – such formalities reserved only for those in positions of leadership, in order to demonstrate to the public that no one is above the “law.”

By no means innocent of the blood spilled in previous years, many of those put on trial were innocent of the charges that were the pretense for the trial.  Those promised leniency if they confessed were shot anyway.  Others, pleaded that at least their families would not be harmed; once executed, they would never know that such promises were not kept either.

The secret police who carried out Stalin’s orders were then accused of countless unjustified killings over the last several years – and they were then shot. 

Virtually a complete turnover of personnel – from the secret police as well as the military; especially the military.  There remained one lose end:

In 1940, therefore, Stalin arranged for a Spanish communist to travel to Mexico City.  There, in a simple domestic office, the agent pulled an icepick out of his jacket and buried it in the forehead of Leon Trotsky.

1 comment:

  1. It's all very sick. As weak as liberalism ended up it looks way better than communism. Unfortunately, the stories of the USSR don't sound so foreign anymore. We haven't endured the mass killing. Maybe we never will. But we have seen waves of pseudo-moral movements go through our country with MeToo, LGBT+ allegiance, BLM, Drag Queen story hour, COVID mania, DEI, and ESG. They are all purity tests for the Left.

    People like you and me have already been "othered" several times over. I am thankful that our leaders have been less enthusiastic about using violence compared to Lenin and Stalin. Stalin had to be the most evil man that has ever lived.