The Russian Revolution, a Century Later
A hundred years ago, in the early hours of November 7, 1917, the Bolsheviks grabbed power in Petrograd. Within weeks they took advantage of Russia’s collapsing political and social structure to impose control over the country’s heartland. The result of the coup was a tragedy of world-historical proportions. A vibrant, flourishing culture was destroyed amidst a bloodbath one hundred times worse than the terror in France in the 1790’s.
In the preceding quarter-century Russia was undergoing rapid modernization. On the eve of the Great War it was the world’s fourth largest economy, its annual growth rate comparable to that of China after Deng’s reforms. Its railway network exceeded 50,000 miles, its gold reserves were second only to Britain’s. Its wheat harvest had doubled from 32 million metric tons in 1890 to 64 million in 1913. That year Russia had the lowest direct taxes in Europe, four times lower than France and Germany, one-eighth the British rate. Real incomes had increased sixfold between 1893 and 1913. Workers’ rights, public health and literacy were improving accordingly, prompting U.S. President William Taft to declare that the Tzar’s labor legislation was “nearer to perfection than that of any democratic country.” Of some 150,000 new book titles published worldwide in 1914, over one-fifth were published in Russia – as many as in Britain, France and the United States combined. Paul Valéry called the late Empire one of the wonders of the world, which, despite its modernity and unlike Western Europe, still retained a Christian outlook.
The leaders of Wilhelmine Germany feared that Russia’s growth would turn her into Europe’s potential hegemon. As Fritz Fischer established in his 1961 classic study Germany’s Aims in the First World War, the Kaiserreich military and political elite engineered the crisis after the assassination of Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Its objective was to wage a “preventive” war and thus preempt Russia’s rapid economic, demographic and military rise. The same people actively helped Lenin and his followers on their sealed train journey from Zurich to Petrograd three years later, thus sealing Europe’s destiny (as well as their own).
The revolution which ended monarchy in March 1917, leading to its Bolshevik sequel eight months later, did not come because the material condition of Russian peasants and workers was unbearable, or because the war was going badly. The weakness of Nicholas II, the role of his unstable wife, the influence of Rasputin… were on balance peripheral. It came primarily because Russia’s political and intellectual elite had lost its faith, focus, and nerve.
The most significant trait of the Bolshevik terror during the Civil War and in the ensuing decades was the promotion of a quasi-religious ideology based on anti-Christian zeal, and the parallel insistence on the creation of a New Man divorced from his ancestors, their naturally evolving communities and their culture. As Trotsky wrote in 1924, “Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.” Evil insanity translated into politics has never been stated with such clarity.
A CENTURY LATER Russia is in recovery, while America’s dominant elites are gripped by a rather similar kind of madness. Abroad, ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia has been conducting conventional, national-interest-based policies, while the United States has pursued the quest for global hegemony. It has developed the ideological basis and fully developed self-referential framework for the policy of permanent global interventionism. The doctrine is clearly Leninist: “History has called America and our allies to action,” George W. Bush announced in his 2002 State of the Union address; “We’ve come to know truths that we will never question.” The same principle has been reiterated enthusiastically in Obama’s Reagan-plus “vindication of the idea of America,” and reluctantly by Trump in the aftermath of his defeat by the Swamp.
At home, Russia is returning to normality and emerging as the last major European nation true to her roots and identity. America is enthusiastically destroying monuments – Confederate today, the Founders’ tomorrow. Russia is unencumbered by obsessive self-examination. America’s elites have used allegedly enlightened and progressive ideas and ideals to create a plethora of “isms,” and to promote a complex paradigm of unlimited grievances and victimhood. Just like the Bolsheviks, they judge all acts and phenomena not on the grounds of their legality, legitimacy, or natural morality, but – as per Charlottesville – strictly on the basis of their ideological contents, their contribution to the march of progressive humanity.
The Bolsheviks were evil; but they were also blinded by their own notions of imminent world revolution, and thus unable to resist the state-rebuilding force of Stalin’s “socialism in one country.” Their heirs in today’s America are demonstrably more dexterous, but just as criminally insane. Their citadels, in the media and academia, are literally beyond redemption. It would be in the American interest for the flyover country deplorables to develop the strategy of their permanent exclusion from the nation’s political and cultural scene.
Full article in printed Liberty