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Devil in History

Vladimir Tismaneanu
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 336
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    Devil in History
    Book Description:

    The Devil in Historyis 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95417-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    This is a book about political passions, radicalism, utopian ideals, and their catastrophic consequences in the twentieth century’s experiments in massive social engineering. More precisely, it is an attempt to map and explain what Hannah Arendt called “the ideological storms” of a century second to none in violence, hubris, ruthlessness, and human sacrifices. I began thinking about these issues as a teenager in Communist Romania, when I had the chance to read a clandestinely circulated copy of Arthur Koestler’s novelDarkness at Noon. I was born after World War II to revolutionary parents who had embraced anti-Fascist Communist values before...

  4. Prologue: Totalitarian Dictators and Ideological Hubris
    (pp. 1-17)

    No century witnessed and documented so much atrocious suffering, organized hatred, and devastating violence as the twentieth. The concentration camps represented the ultimate humiliation of human beings, the destruction of their identity, their inescapable dehumanization, and their mass annihilation. Neither Communism nor Nazism can be understood without taking into account the centrality of what Albert Camus once calledl’univers concentrationnaire. In his bookIf This Is a Man, the Italian writer and Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi, wrote:

    Perhaps it is not possible to comprehend, indeed perhaps one should not even try, since to comprehend is almost to excuse. Let me...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Utopian Radicalism and Dehumanization
    (pp. 18-52)

    Understanding the meanings of the twentieth century is impossible if we do not acknowledge the uniqueness of the revolutionary left and right experiments in reshaping the human condition in the name of presumably inexorable historical laws. It was during that century that, using Leszek Kołakowski’s inspired term, “the Devil incarnated himself in History.” The ongoing debate on the nature and the legitimacy (or even acceptability) of comparisons (analogies) between the ideologically driven revolutionary tyrannies of the twentieth century (radical Communism, or rather, Leninism, or, as some prefer, Stalinism) on one hand and radical Fascism (or, more precisely, Nazism) on the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Diabolical Pedagogy and the (Il)logic of Stalinism
    (pp. 53-86)

    One of the main distinctions between the Nazi and Stalinist tyrannies was the absence in Germany of permanent purges of the ruling party elite as a mechanism of mobilization, integration, and scapegoating. In fact, Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek is right to observe that there were no Moscow-style show trials in Hitler’s Germany (or for that matter in Mussolini’s Italy).¹ The explanation lies in the differences between the centrality of the charismatic party in Bolshevik regimes and the prevailing status of the leader in Fascist dictatorships. This is not say that the leader (whether Stalin, Mao, Mátyás Rákosi, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Klement...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Lenin’s Century: Bolshevism, Marxism, and the Russian Tradition
    (pp. 87-122)

    Marxism was, as Leszek Kołakowski once said, the greatest philosophical fantasy of modern times. It was a gigantic Manichean political myth, a major script of political modernity that contrasted the forces of reaction, barbarism, and decay to those of historical progress, reason, and human liberation. It promised salvation via the destruction of a system based on domination, exploitation, and alienation. The proletariat, in this soteriological vision, was the universal redeemer or, as young Marx put it, the messiah-class of history.¹ Feverishly appealing to what historian Norman Cohn called highly emotional mass movements, both Leninism and Fascism created millenarian sociological and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Dialectics of Disenchantment: Marxism and Ideological Decay in Leninist Regimes
    (pp. 123-160)

    Communist regimes were partocratic ideocracies (as discussed by authors such as Leonard Schapiro, Alain Besançon, Martin Malia, Richard Pipes, Orlando Figes, and Stephen Kotkin). Their only claim to legitimacy was purely ideological, that is, derived from the organized belief system shared by the elites and inculcated into the masses that the party benefited by special access to historical truth. If this interpretation is correct, then deradicalization, the decline of self-generated energy, primarily in the field of ideological monopoly, leads to increased vulnerability. The demise of the supreme leader (Stalin, Mao, Enver Hoxha, or Tito) has always ushered in ideological anarchy...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Ideology, Utopia, and Truth: Lessons from Eastern Europe
    (pp. 161-192)

    More than in any other period of human history, individuals in the twentieth century were tempted by the promises of revolutionary messianism rooted in grandiose teleological fantasies imagined by prophets who mostly wrote their manifestos during the previous century.¹ Or to use the formulation of Czech philosopher and dissident Jan Patočka, the last century experienced the rise of “radical super-civilizations” that sought forms analogous to that of a “universal church.” According to him, they were “geared toward the totalizing of life by means of rationalism; we deal with a yearning for a new center, ‘from which it is possible to...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Malaise and Resentment: Threats to Democracy in Post-Communist Societies
    (pp. 193-223)

    The over two decades that have passed since the collapse of Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe have proved that more than one possible future could be reasonably canvassed for the region. Even when many hastened to predict the worst, the likelihood of nightmarish scenarios, pace Jan Urban or G. M. Tamás, was somewhat dubious.¹Bellum omnium contra omnes, a state of wild and protracted anarchy, and the loss of recently acquired civic rights in favor of Stalino-Fascist simulations of cohesion and collective will are not in the offing in most post-Leninist states. The Milosevic-style expansionist chauvinism has not...

  11. Conclusions
    (pp. 224-234)

    Totalitarianism was a novel political, social, and cultural construct that first suspended and then abolished traditional distinctions between good and evil. An imperfect concept, to be sure, it was not an empty signifier or a mere Cold War propaganda weapon, as some have suggested in recent years. Those who developed the concept of totalitarianism during the interwar period knew what appalling realities it designated: from the exiled Mensheviks to the emigré scholars from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, these intellectuals knew that something unprecedented and quite terrifying had occurred.¹ The concept of totalitarianism offered important and still valid interpretive keys...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 235-296)
  13. Index
    (pp. 297-320)