Olavo de Carvalho
The protest of the Russian government against the moral equation of Nazism with Communism boils down to one of the most fearful historical falsifications of all times. Fearful because of the magnitude of the lie enveloped therein and doubly fearful because of the easy credulity with which it is generally welcomed by non-Communists and even anti-Communists.
Even John Earl Haynes, the great historian of American anti-Communism, underwrites this error: “Unlike Nazism, which explicitly placed war and violence at the core of its ideology, Communism sprang from idealistic roots.” Nothing in the historical documents justifies this statement. Centuries before Nazism and Fascism emerged, Communism was already spreading terror and slaughter throughout Europe and reached an apex of violence in the France of 1793. The very conception of genocide—the thorough extermination of peoples, races, and nations—is Communist in origin, and its clearest expression was already in the writings of Marx and Engels half a century before the birth of Hitler and Mussolini.
The romanticized idealism is on the periphery and not at the core of the Communist doctrine: the leaders and mentors have always laughed at it, leaving it to the crowd of “useful idiots.” It is significant that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, or Che Guevara dedicated very few lines to the description of the future Communist society and its supposed beauties, preferring to fill whole volumes with the emphatic expression of their hatred not only of the bourgeois and the aristocrats but of millennia of intellectual and moral culture, pejoratively explained away as mere ideological camouflage for financial interest and lust for power. Among non-Communists, the usual ascription of idealistic motives to Communism is born of no objective sign that they can identify in the works of the Communist grandees, but simply of the inverse projection of the rhetoric of accusation and denunciation that bubbles in them as in a cauldron of hate. The naïve reader’s spontaneous reaction before these works is to imagine that so much repulsion to evil can only be born of a deep love of the good. But it is proper to evil to hate itself, and it is simply not possible that the reduction of all moral, religious, artistic, and intellectual values of humanity to the condition of ideological camouflage for lower impulses is inspired by the love of the good. The gaze of fierce suspicion that Marx and his continuators direct against the most elevated creations of the past centuries denotes, rather, the satanic malice that attempts to see evil in everything so as to look more bearable in the comparison. To accept the legend of Communist idealism as true, we would have to invert all standards of moral judgment, admitting that the martyrs who let themselves be killed in the Roman arena acted out of vile interest, whereas the murderers of Christians in the Soviet Union and in China acted out of sheer goodness.
In the rare moments when one of the Communist theoreticians allows himself to contemplate imaginatively the supposed virtues of the future society, he does so in such exaggerated and caricatural terms that they can only be explained as a fit of hysterical self-excitement with no connection with the substantive ground of his theories. No one can repress an ironic smile when Trotsky says that in the Communist society every street sweeper will be a new Leonardo da Vinci. This, as a project of society, is a joke—Communism as a whole is a joke. It is only serious as an enterprise of hate and destruction.
Moreover, the Russian protest purposely suppresses two fundamental historical data:
1. Fascism was born of a mere internal split of the Socialist movement and not as an external reaction. Its origin, as has been conclusively proved, lies in the disappointment of European Socialists with the adherence of the proletariat of the several nations to the patriotic appeal of the war propaganda in 1914. Grounded on the idea that economic class solidarity was a deeper and more solid bond than national identities—allegedly factitious inventions of the bourgeoisie to camouflage its economic interests—Lenin and his party fellows believed that in the event of a European war the proletarians called to the trenches would rise en masse against their respective governments and would turn the war into a general Socialist uprising. This is exactly the opposite of what happened. Everywhere the proletariat adhered enthusiastically to the appeal of bellicose nationalism, against which not even some of the most outstanding Socialist leaders in France and in Germany were immune. At the end of the war, it was only natural that the Leninist myth of class solidarity should be subjected to dissolving critical analyses and that the concept of “nation” should be revalued as a unifying symbol of the Socialist struggle. Hence the great divide of the revolutionary movement: the one part remained faithful to the internationalist banner, thus being compelled to perform complicate mental gymnastics to reconcile it with the Soviet nationalism, while the other part simply preferred to create a new formula of revolutionary struggle—the nationalist Socialism, or National Socialism. It is not devoid of meaning that at the origin of “German Socialism”—as it was universally called in the thirties—the largest dose of financial contributions to Hitler’s party came precisely from the proletarian militancy (see James Pool, Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler’s Rise to Power, 1919–1933, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997). For a body that Communists would later claim to be exclusively a class instrument of the bourgeoisie, it would have been quite a paradoxical beginning, if only this Soviet official explanation were not, as indeed it was and is, just a publicity ploy to camouflage ex post facto Stalin’s accountability for the strengthening of the Nazi regime.
2. Ever since the twenties the Soviet government, persuaded that German nationalism was a useful tool for breaking the bourgeois order in Europe, applied itself to promoting in secrecy the creation of a German army in Russian territory, thus violating the prohibition imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. Without this collaboration, which intensified after Hitler’s rise to power, it would have been impossible for Germany to become a military power capable of disturbing the world equilibrium. Part of the Communist militancy felt deeply disappointed with Stalin on the occasion of the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, which in 1939 made the Soviet Union and Germany partners in the brutal imperialist attack against Poland. But the agreement came as scandalous news only because no one outside the high Soviet circles knew about that military support, which was already more than a decade old and without which Nazism would never have come to constitute a menace to the world. Denouncing Nazism in words and promoting it through decisive actions was the constant Soviet policy since the rise of Hitler—a policy that was interrupted only when the German dictator, contrary to all that Stalin could have expected, attacked the Soviet Union in 1941. From both the ideological and the military points of view, Fascism and Nazism are branches of the Socialist movement. (There is no need to emphasize their all too obvious common origin in evolutionism and in the “cult of science.” Whoever wishes to learn more about it will do well to read Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, New York: Norton, 2004.)
But there still remains one point to be considered. While Communism proved uniformly cruel and genocidal in all countries where it spread, the same cannot be said of Fascism. Communist China soon surpassed the USSR itself in genocidal fury against its own population, but no Fascist regime outside Germany ever compared, not even remotely, with Nazi brutality. Rather, in most nations where it prevailed, Fascism tended toward a soft authoritarianism, which not only reserved the use of violence for the most dangerous armed enemies, but even tolerated the coexistence with hostile and rival powers. In the very Italy of Mussolini, the Fascist government accepted the rivalry of the monarchy and the Church—which in Hannah Arendt’s most pertinent analysis already suffices to exclude it from the category of “totalitarianism.” In Latin America, no military dictatorship—whether “Fascist” or not—ever reached the record of a hundred thousand victims that, according to the latest calculations, has resulted from the Communist dictatorship in Cuba. Compared with Fidel Castro, Pinochet is a harmless little dove. In other areas of the Third World, no allegedly Fascist regime ever did anything like the horrors of Communism in Vietnam and in Cambodia. Nazism is a specifically German variant of Fascism, and this variant is distinguished from the others by the abnormal dose of violence and cruelty that it desired and attained. In the matter of perilousness, Communism is to Fascism as the Mafia is to some neighborhood rapist. But we should not forget what Saint Thomas Aquinas says: the difference between hate and fear is a question of proportion—when the assailant is weaker, you hate him; when he is stronger, you fear him. Fascism is easy to hate simply because it was always weaker than Communism and above all because, as an organized political force, it is dead and buried. Fascism never had at its service a secret police the size of the KGB, with its five hundred thousand officers, unlimited secret budget, and at least five million informal agents throughout the world. Even in terms of advertisement, Goebbels’s lies were childish tricks as compared with Willi Münzenberg’s refined techniques and with the powerful industry of desinformatzia still fully operative in the world. While at the end of World War II the general pressure of the victorious nations led two dozens of defendants to the Nuremberg Court and initiated the implacable persecution to Nazi war criminals—which lasts until today—the end of the Soviet Union was followed by general efforts to prevent any accusation, however small, from being brought against Communist leaders responsible for five times as great a genocide. In Cambodia, the single country that has had the courage to essay a judicial investigation against the former Communist rulers, the UN did everything to thwart this initiative—which to this day is dragging through a thousand bureaucratic obstacles—awaiting death of old age to deliver the offenders from punishment. Fascism attracts hate because it is a gruesome relic of the past. Communism is alive, and its perilousness has not at all diminished. The fear that it inspires transmutes easily into affectation of reverence, for the selfsame motives that led Stalin’s entourage to feign love for him so as not to confess the terror that he inspired.
Translated by Alessandro Cota and Bruno Mori