A Hundred Years since the Birth of the Beast

On the night of 7 to 8 November, 1917, a military rule over St. Petersburg was seized by Dybenko, Krylenko, Antonov-Ovseyenko, and Trotsky. Red Guards surrounded the Winter Palace where Russia’s Provisional Government was located, arresting its members. Lenin appointed himself head of the new revolutionary government. This was the start of Bolshevik, or communist, rule in Russia.

On 10 and 11 November, the cadets and volunteers of the Women’s Battalion tried to recapture the palace. They were defeated by the Red Guards; the cadets were executed and the women raped. The last to defend the lawful government in Russia were women and near-children.

The CHEKA, or Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, was founded as early as in December. This was the beginning of the Red Terror. It was the birth of the Beast, the first totalitarian regime of the twentieth century. Later, communism was to acquire a younger stepbrother, Nazism, and later still, their youngest step-cousin, Islamism. This completes the triad of totalitarian regimes of the last hundred years.

From the Birth of the Bolshevik Faction to the Collapse of the Soviet Union

In his book The War We Are In, published in 1967, on the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, the philosopher and leading American anti-communist geopolitical strategist of the post-World War II era, James Brunham (1905-1987; President Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983) outlined the following periodization of the communist struggle to monopolize world power:

1903 During the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party Congress Lenin establishes the Bolshevik faction.

1903—1917 Revolutionary army cadres formed and trained.

1917 Seizure of the first outpost, Russia.

1920 Failure of the first direct offensive against the West (defeat in the Battle of Vistula at the gates of Warsaw).

1920—1944 Defense and consolidation of the base.

1944—1949 Explosive expansion of the base.

1944 and the years that followed—the United States identified as the key enemy, hence attempts at weakening, isolating, and ultimately defeating the US; until that goal is realized, indirect attacks on the West through support for decolonization and anti-Western nationalism in the Third World; and what comes to be known as the Cold War.

Today we are in a position to complete Burnham’s periodization:

1944—1981 The Cold War, which is defensive on the part of the West and offensive on the part of communism.

1981—1989 The Cold War, offensive on the part of the West (the Reagan doctrine) and defensive on the part of communism.

1989 The collapse of communist power in Central Europe, communism ceases to be a global threat to the West.

1991 Epilogue, collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Communism as a messianic ideology that strives for world rule has been consigned to history. Admittedly, there are still countries ruled by a party that is communist in name (China, Cuba), but their regimes are closer to classic dictatorships than to communist totalitarian systems (only one country, North Korea, still fits this label). What was the driving force behind communist ideology?

Communism was to acquire a younger stepbrother, Nazism, and later still, their youngest step-cousin, Islamism. This completes the triad of totalitarian regimes of the last hundred years.

Utopianism, Moral Relativism, and Radical Etatism

It was a combination of three ideological and philosophical beliefs based on a conscious rejection of the Judeo-Christian view of mankind and of classical political philosophy. These three worldviews are utopianism, moral relativism, and radical etatism.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, man is a being endowed with infinite value and inner dignity because he has been created by God and in the image of God. At the same time, he is a fallen, flawed being, morally and intellectually imperfect (that is why he is in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness). This imperfect human nature is something constant, immutable, and unalterable. As a result there will never be Paradise on earth, as “God’s Kingdom is not of this world.” The state is not qualified to offer salvation. We cannot be redeemed by the state; the best it can do is to ensure security, inner peace, and law and order. An objective moral order, some objective norms of good and bad behavior do, however, exist – in the form of religious faith (the Jewish tradition), the proper application of philosophical reason (the Greek tradition), or a combination of faith and reason (the Christian synthesis of the two preceding traditions).

A Long and Gradual Genesis

The rejection of this viewpoint also has a long and gradual genesis. It can be traced back to the twelfth-century Joachim de Flora’s speculations on history culminating in Utopia (a “third era” or “Third Reich”), and continues in the fourteenth century with William of Occam and his nominalism (leading to relativism).

Communism as a messianic ideology that strives for world rule has been consigned to history.

Machiavelli comes next, at the dawn of the modern era (turn of the fifteenth century), with his notion of amoral government. In the seventeenth century Thomas Hobbes introduces the absolute state: Leviathan. Next comes Jean-Jacques Rousseau with his idea of the noble savage destroyed by civilization (i.e. if we change the circumstances, we can “cultivate” a better breed of humans), followed by Hegel and his “dialectic”: the belief that truth varies in history and what was right (or wrong) yesterday does not necessarily have to be right (or wrong) today and vice versa. And last but not least, Karl Marx, with his conviction that man is just a chunk of matter devoid of any inner value; that, rather than being a source of human freedom and independence from others, private ownership is exploitation; that the best political system is not a lawfully elected democratic government with limited state power but a “dictatorship of the proletariat” – the unconstrained tyranny of a state that practices revolutionary terror.

The Voice of the Serpent Proffering the Apple in the Paradise

These are the ideas on which the three basic beliefs of the communists—and totalitarians in general—are based. Utopianism: a monumental transformation of society can produce a more perfect human being and a better society and Paradise on earth will ensue. Moral relativism: the imperfect man of to day possesses no absolute inner value, no innate dignity, no natural rights that must be unconditionally respected by the state and the revolution. In other words, there is nothing—no action or deed—that the state or the revolutionaries may not commit or inflict on another human being as they strive to build Paradise on earth. And, lastly, radical etatism: while building Paradise on earth the unconstrained state in the hands of revolutionaries can inflict anything on human beings – this is a state that is absolute, total, totalitarian.

These are the ideas on which the three basic beliefs of the communists—and totalitarians in general—are based. Utopianism, moral relativism, radical etatism.

Here we have totalitarianism, its theory and practice, in a nutshell.

However, we must not forget that totalitarianism need not necessarily be limited only to the twentieth century; that is merely when it reached its climax. It was a culmination of ideas and beliefs that have existed, flames that have smoldered throughout history and have yet to be completely put out. It represents a constant, eternal temptation to mankind and, as Whittaker Chambers says in his 1952 book Witness, it actually amounts to the second most ancient human faith. It was the voice of the serpent proffering the apple to the first man and woman, saying: “You will be like God.”

That serpent was Satan.

Roman Joch

is the Executive Director of the Civic Institute in Prague. He is a commentator and lecturer on political philosophy, international relations, with an emphasis on US Domestic and Foreign Policies. He is the author of several monographs and expert studies including: American Foreign Policies and the Role of the US in the World (Studies OI, Prague 2000), Why Iraq? Reasons and Consequences of the Conflict (Prague 2003), and (together with Frank S. Meyer) Rebellion against the Revolution of the 20th Century (Prague 2003).

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