Yuri Slezkine’s argument in The House of Government: A saga of the Russian Revolution is that ‘the Bolsheviks were not a party but an apocalyptic sect. In an extended essay on comparative religion …, he puts Russia’s victorious revolutionaries in a long line of millenarians extending back to the ancient Israelites; in their “totalitarian” demands on the individual believer, he suggests, the Bolsheviks are cut from the same cloth as the sixteenth-century Münster Anabaptists and the original “radical fundamentalist”, Jesus Christ.’
Category Archives: terror
“Yet both the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks were wrong in 1917. The Mensheviks’ faith in Russian liberals was misplaced, as were the Bolsheviks’ hopes for world revolution and an easy leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom. The Bolsheviks, having seen over ten million killed in a capitalist war, and living in an era of upheaval, can be forgiven. We can also forgive them because they were first. What is less forgivable is that a model built from errors and excesses, forged in the worst of conditions, came to dominate a left living in an unrecognizable world.”
In a new textbook, The French Revolution and Napoleon: The Crucible of the Modern World, metropolitan France is still central, but the global context now plays a much more significant role, explain the authors.
“For Blanquism, liberation comes from a small elite conspiracy who act in place of the working class. By contrast, Marxist politics are centered on the self-emancipation of the working class. Marxists believe that the liberation of the workers does not come from saviors, whether benevolent reformers or virtuous conspirators. Whereas Blanqui considered a revolutionary dictatorship to be ruled by a conspiracy because the people were too ignorant to rule on their own behalf, for Marxists the dictatorship of the proletariat is the rule of the workers as a class or democracy for the vast majority.”
‘Was the October revolution bound to lead to terror? … Both Tariq Ali and China Miéville sense that our flattened, calcified versions of the revolutionary past have something to do with the absence of political imagination and emancipatory hope in the present. “Today’s dominant ideology and the power structures it defends are so hostile to the social and liberation struggles of the last century,” Ali writes, “that a recovery of as much historical and political memory as is feasible becomes an act of resistance.”’
Trotsky’s perspectives on the Russian Revolution were unique. No one else shared them — not Marx, not Lenin, not Luxemburg, not Kautsky, not Parvus, not Riazanov, not Mehring — even though all were intimately familiar with Marxist methodology. Though Le Blanc [in his biography] argues otherwise, there was only one version of permanent revolution — Trotsky’s. No one else adhered to Trotsky’s analysis of the coming Russian Revolution: that only workers could overthrow Tsarism and that as a result the democratic revolution in Russia would have to be a proletarian-socialist one, not a “bourgeois-democratic” one.
“After the Reign of Terror and the fall of Robespierre, Hegel took a more somber and often times very critical view of Jacobinism in his later Jena period, right through to the publication of his masterwork, the Phenomenology of Spirit. But it is important to understand how Hegel understood the Jacobins’ role as not entirely retrogressive, but progressive to the development of human freedom, or what Hegel calls the development of human spirit in history.”
Thoughts on misery and revolution.
Lenin ‘was quite fond of Kropotkin, and he was quite fond of some of the anarchist militants and activists. How could he not be? They had dominated Russian politics for the whole of the nineteenth century. It wasn’t Marxism that was dominant. It was anarchism. This was the ideology the young people liked. These were the ideas of Kropotkin and Bakunin, which they adopted and which led them to a form of anarcho-terrorism because they said, “There’s nothing left for us to do.”’
“Biographies of ‘homegrown’ European terrorists show they are violent nihilists who adopt Islam, rather than religious fundamentalists who turn to violence. … To summarise: the typical radical is a young, second-generation immigrant or convert, very often involved in episodes of petty crime, with practically no religious education, but having a rapid and recent trajectory of conversion/reconversion, more often in the framework of a group of friends or over the internet than in the context of a mosque. The embrace of religion is rarely kept secret, but rather is exhibited, but it does not necessarily correspond to immersion in religious practice. The rhetoric of rupture is violent – the enemy is kafir, one with whom no compromise is possible – but also includes their own family, the members of which are accused of observing Islam improperly, or refusing to convert.” This is an edited extract from Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State by Olivier Roy.