Two years ago, on the centennial anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia that ushered in a century of mass murder and misery, the Trump administration declared a National Day for the Victims of Communism. The New York Times, meanwhile, predictably celebrated the blood-soaked milestone with a series of opinion pieces touting the many upsides of Communism, such as better orgasms for women. The series was titled, with stunning tone-deafness, “Red Century.”
Also on that anniversary in 2017, Bucknell University, a private liberal arts college in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, held a symposium titled “Legacies of the October Revolution,” organized by Bucknell professor of sociology Alexander Riley and associate professor of English Alfred Kentigern Siewers. That symposium spawned an important new book titled The Totalitarian Legacy of the Bolshevik Revolution, edited by Riley and Siewers and featuring essays from three participating scholars. Contrary to the New York Times’ whitewashing, the book’s evaluation of the October Revolution is unequivocally damning.
“Now, a century later, the historical evidence on the nature and legacy of the Bolsheviks and the regime they established is indisputable,” writes editor Riley in the foreword, “Challenging Bolshevik Myth and the Poetry of Totalitarianism”:
None of the utopian goals to which they purported to aspire – the end of inequality and want, an efflorescence of humane cultural values, a more just and democratic social order – were realized. Instead of these noble ends, the Bolsheviks produced the world’s first totalitarian state, a one-party dictatorship whose political power rested almost entirely on the threat and frequent implementation of mass violence.
It gets harsher from there. The book’s essays by a trio of scholars offer “a summary analysis of the historical record books on the Bolshevik reign of terror, a working hypothesis on what produced the distorted and malevolent ideologies and practices that sustained Bolshevism, and an effort at understanding how considerable numbers of intelligent and conscientious individuals could have come to believe such intrinsically unbelievable things” about it, Riley writes.
In the first of three brilliant essays, “Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution: The Invention of Totalitarianism,” French historian and former Maoist militant Stéphane Courtois, author of more than 30 books on communism and totalitarianism (including lead authorship of the essential work on global communism, The Black Book of Communism), undertakes to explain how Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka Lenin, became the founder of totalitarianism. Courtois demonstrates that Lenin shared with his successor Stalin “the same merciless, amoral, dehumanizing view of political opponents.” It is a strategy familiar to anyone who has been demonized by today’s Democrat Party.