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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inclinations, and aspirations. Quite the contrary, it is morality that defines what being human means.”62 In the aftermath of 1956, but especially after 1968, the post-totalitarian phase of state socialism brought about a system of power based on con- Lessons from Eastern Europe | 179 formity, co-optation, cynicism, and inclusive, privilege-based regimentation. Reflecting on the hollow-ritualistic nature of the ideological reproduction of state socialism, Václav Havel provides an excellent

unprecedented in history. In my view, clarifying these issues is enormously important for understanding the real political, moral, and cultural stakes of the post–Cold War order, an order that Ken Jowitt assumes to be “without Leninism,” but where Leninist and fundamentalist-primordialist legacies continue to haunt political memory and imagination. On the other hand, we live in a world in which not only do post-Communist specters keep resurfacing, but where post-Fascist exclusionary delusions

its weight in the world insofar as it contributed to the construction of the revered social utopia. In this ideologically defined universe, the only agent capable of fulfilling and thereby ending history by bringing humanity to the promised land of classless society was the party. Two pronouncements by Yury Piatakov, one of Lenin’s favorites in the younger generation of the Bolshevik Old Guard, spelled out this cosmic, or mystical, identification with the party in the most dramatic terms: “In

Gorbachev’s revolution have the potential to be an anti-Leninist revolution? His plans do seem to have maintained the features of a movement-regime defined by an encompassing socialist spirit. He attempted to formulate a new social contract based on mutual trust and respect between leaders and citizens. The party as a collective intellectual in the Gramscian sense, its relegitimation through intellectual competence and moral authority, never succeeded, however, in becoming a viable alternative to

populism, chauvinism, and fundamentalism of different shades. The ghost of the future conjured up by young Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto has been replaced with revamped specters of the past, summoned into the present by disconcerted political actors unable to come to terms with the hardships of the democratic project and the challenges of (post)modernity. To the soulless “Europe of butter” lambasted and decried by various neoromantics, they often contrast the myth of the original communal

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