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Inside the Mind of the 20th Century’s Anti-Christ

Inside the Mind of the 20th Centurys Anti-Christ Andrew Kitzmiller

Andrew Kitzmiller

Jason Jones and John Zmirak - published on 02/04/14 - updated on 06/07/17

An autopsy is ugly, but sometimes is necessary.

As C. S. Lewis admitted in the prefatory remarks toThe Screwtape Letters, it can be profoundly disturbing — even debilitating — for an author to set himself the task of examining evil from the inside. Like an autopsy, it’s an ugly but sometimes necessary task.

Lenin in Zurich (1976), by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, performs such an autopsy on Marxist socialism from the point of view of Nikolai Lenin himself. The book was published as a stand-alone novel, even though its narrative, broken up into parts, also appears in the author’s epic series of history novels, The Red Wheel.  Its closest literary analogue is indeed The Screwtape Letters (and perhaps Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita).  What drove Solzhenitsyn to shrink his vast, capacious spirit so it could fit into the nasty little tin box that was the mind of an ideologue was the necessity to explain. In fact, his The Red Wheel is an attempt to construct a counternarrative of the history of his country, one meant to stand against the accounts produced by the snuffling hordes of Western historians sympathetic to socialism, who have insisted over the decades on propagating a long list of myths about what happened to Russia in the twentieth century.

The most popular fantasy, which endured the longest despite the inexorable release of evidence to the contrary, pictures Lenin as a fundamentally progressive revolutionary, whose attempt to liberate Russia was tragically hijacked by the thuggish Stalin — whom true believers will try to insist was not even really a Marxist, but merely a bandit who adopted an ideology to cover his hunger for power. No one who reads of the massive repressions ordered by Lenin, or peruses the letters in which he greets with glee the news of peasants executed for “hoarding” their own grain, or of helpless clergymen starved to death can innocently accept this myth. Indeed, a single telegram sent by Lenin in 1918, long available to the public, should have sufficed to put to rest the myth that he was merely a “liberal in a hurry.” As he wrote his subordinates on August 11 of that year:

“Comrades! The uprising by the five kulak volosts [regions] must be mercilessly suppressed. The interest of the entire revolution demands this, for we are now facing everywhere the “final decisive battle” with the kulaks. We need to set an example.

1. You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the people see) no fewer than 100 of the notorious kulaks: the rich and the bloodsuckers.
2. Publish their names.
3. Take all their grain from them.
4. Appoint the hostages in accordance with yesterday’s telegram.
This needs to be done in such a way that the people for hundreds of versts around will see, tremble, know and shout. They are throttling, and they will throttle the bloodsucking kulaks.

Telegraph us concerning receipt and implementation.

Yours, Lenin.
PS. Find tougher people.”

Solzhenitsyn does much more than document statements like this one; in Lenin in Zurich, he goes back before Lenin’s sudden rise to power — as a cat’s paw of the Kaiser’s Germany, which was desperate to knock imperial Russia out of the war — to explore how a highly talented intellectual, whose politics were impeccably “progressive,” could at the same time be such a narrow, bitter dogmatist who was coldly willing to murder unarmed civilians by the thousands and deport countless more to internment camps to freeze or starve. In the novel, Solzhenitsyn depicts Lenin’s conflicts with rival socialists in exile, whom he attempted to lead by turns through bullying or flattery. Having convinced himself that he had arrived at the only plausible action plan for putting Marxism into practice, he regarded anyone who differed even on tactics as, in effect (and perhaps in intention), a saboteur. Lenin’s tactic, as he repeated over and over again, was to “split the Party!” until he had pared away anyone who was not completely docile. What remained was a rump of a rump of a faction, which in 1917 skulked in Swiss exile with few connections left back in Russia. As the narrative progresses, Lenin appears more and more like some crank conspiracy theorist who spends his days uselessly hectoring a shrinking band of fanatics and servile followers. Indeed, it seems implausible that such a man could come to manage a hen roost, and the terrible knowledge that he will soon gain absolute, life-and-death power over a vast continental empire imbues the novel with an almost unbearable irony. Reading it is like watching a bus full of innocent refugees head off a cliff, in excruciating slow motion.

So what, apart from the Machiavellian plans of men like the German General Erich Ludendorff (who would later back Hitler against the Bolshevik menace he had personally unleashed), explains Lenin’s rise as dictator?  It is, Solzhenitsyn suggests, precisely his dogmatism, his unshakeable sectarian certainty of the rectitude of his actions. In a Russia whose liberal intelligentsia knew only one thing for certain — there are no enemies to the left — there was no coherent party representing moderate reform. The sane and prudent modernizing minister Pyotr Stolypin, who serves as the tragic hero of Solzhenitsyn’s entire epic, had years before been murdered and his supporters ousted from power. The tsar’s regime was defended only by the bigoted, timid, or venal, while those who demanded reform were so insatiable to dethrone him and wipe clean the slate of Russian history that no radical on the left could ever seem dangerous. So Alexander Kerensky, who formed the Provisional Government after the abdication of Nicholas II, did little to hamper Lenin’s obvious moves toward seizing military power. When less radical socialists looked at their more fanatical colleagues, what they felt was not prudent fear, but a kind of bad conscience—almost as if their moderation were proof of cowardice. Readers of Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic will recognize this psychological pattern, remembering Leonard Bernstein hosting murderous, anti-Semitic Black Panthers at his posh New York apartment. Throughout the 1970s, left-wing European elites would show the same indulgence toward the Red Brigades, the PLO, and the Baader-Meinhof Gang, as Michael Burleigh documents in Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism.

In a time of roiling confusion, power fell to the man with a plan and a cult possessed of absolute, dogmatic certainty — a man whose vision of transformation was so absolute and simplistic that it could be squeezed into vulgar pamphlets, regurgitated as war chants, ingested like a stimulant, in much the same way that Hitler’s fathomless radicalism would trump the lesser passion of other, more rational German nationalists. To use a visual metaphor: the hammer and sickle or the swastika are much simpler for the untalented to scrawl in slum graffiti than more traditional emblems of more complex political systems, such as the Prussian or Austrian eagle. Ideologies crafted by bitter sectarian intellectuals to appeal to the street toughs and envious layabouts would actually displace political philosophy throughout the West in the wake of the First World War.

The numberless crimes and final collapse of the Soviet Union did not, alas, entirely discredit the political philosophy that it faithfully put into practice. Nearly no one today still believes in Marx’s utopia — a loss of faith that saps some of the fanatical energy that once infused communism. To anyone honest, it is clear what Marxist movements produce when they come into power: a statist, pseudo-egalitarian bureaucratic behemoth that manipulates the masses it keeps ignorant, and grants wealth to those with power. In other words, something like Mussolini’s Italy — or Castro’s Cuba, or Chávez’s Venezuela, or Jong-Un’s North Korea. What Marx called dialectical materialism, put into practice, boils down to what in 1984 Orwell called oligarchical collectivism — the concentration of money and power in the same hands, which are thus insulated from competition in the marketplace or the public square. This is what Marxism generates, as surely as Fascism generates racial hatred and war. And yet some people still support Marxism, albeit in a watery “critical” or “revisionist” form that evades, they hope, the bloodstains collected by that ideology. Ninety years after the Ukrainian famine, eighty years after the Purge trials, twenty-five years after the KGB opened its torture archives, it is time to stop making excuses for such people. They know what they’re asking for. Apparently, it’s what they want.

Jason Jonesis a producer in Hollywood. His films include Bella, Eyes to See, and Crescendo. Learn more about his human rights initiatives at

John Zmirak is the author of The Bad Catholics Guide to the Catechism.  His columns are archived at The Bad Catholic’s Bingo Hall. This column is from Jones’ and Zmirak’s upcoming book, The Race to Save Our Century (Crossroad, 2014).

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