Written by Vladimir Moss



For most of the 1930s the nations of Europe were expecting a war. This provided the dictators, both Communist and Fascist, with perfect excuses for their revolutionary reconstruction of society: the threat of war from without buttressed the arguments for continuing the war within. And so the apocalyptic atmosphere thickened as the sufferings of the people increased.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-38 prefigured the international war that was to come, with the future antagonists of Italy and Germany, on the one hand, and Soviet Russia, on the other, supporting the nationalist and republican causes respectively. It indicated that the coming international war would in fact be a civil war between related secular ideologies, all of which had their roots in the early modern history of Western Europe. Some have seen the more important cleavage as running between, on the one hand, the rationalist Enlightenment ideologies of Liberalism and Communism, which go back to the French constitutional monarchy of 1789-1792 and the Jacobin dictatorship of 1792-94 respectively, and on the other hand, the anti-Enlightenment irrationalist ideology of nationalism, which goes back to Napoleon’s imperial expansion of the French revolution and the German reaction against it. Others, however, have seen a more fundamental cleavage between the totalitarian ideologies of Communism and Nazism, on the one hand, and the anti-totalitarian ideology of Liberalism, on the other.

Both Liberalism and Communism trace their roots to the optimistic Enlightenment faith that a materialistic utopia can be achieved on earth by education, rationalism, science and the elimination of religious superstition. Both emphasize the role of the State as the spearhead of progress; and if Liberalism also tries to protect the “human rights” of the individual, it is nevertheless the State, rather than the Church or any other organization or individual, that determines what those rights are and how they are to be implemented. So if Liberalism gives greater protection to the individual than does Communism, this is a difference in emphasis rather than of principle, as the increasing convergence between the two systems after World War II demonstrates.[1] If there is a difference in principle between the two systems it consists in Liberalism’s insistence that the dominance of the State should be limited by democratic elections, preceded by genuinely free debate, that permit the removal of governments that are perceived to have failed, whereas Communism posits the eternal rule of the Communist Party and punishes any criticism of it.[2] And yet even here the difference is not as radical as might at first appear. For, on the one hand, Communism pays lip-service to the principle of democratic elections (during which the existing leaders are always elected again with 99.9% of the vote); while on the other hand, the choice offered to voters in a liberal democracy becomes increasingly limited as real power is vested in two increasingly similar political party machines.

There is also a difference between the systems in the particular fallen passions they most pander to. Liberalism panders especially to greed and lust. It moderates, without basically undermining, this motivation through a recognition that one individual’s greed and lust should be satisfied only to the extent that it does not interfere with the satisfaction of another’s greed and lust. Of course, this motivation is not proclaimed for what it is, but is given a more or less decent covering by such slogans as “human rights” and “freedom, equality and fraternity”. Nor can it be denied that there is some genuine idealism and altruism among liberals and capitalists, especially where their slogans are grafted onto a Christian root. But with the gradual dechristianization of Western society in the course of the nineteenth century, the egoism of Liberalism became more and more evident, as Socialists and Communists are not slow to point out.

Since Communism shares a common ancestry with Liberalism in the French Revolution, it, too, uses the slogans of “human rights” and “freedom, equality and fraternity”. But as heirs of the later Jacobin rather than the early Masonic phase of the revolution, Communism is based on the sharper passions of hatred – hatred of the old society of kings and priests, businessmen, bankers and peasants – and love of power. This hatred and love of power was demonstrated most clearly in the Communist leaders, such as Lenin and Stalin, who, whatever their propaganda might say, cared not at all for justice, freedom and human rights for the masses: they hated their fellow men and sought to dominate and exterminate them. By contrast, many rank-and-file Communists, and especially those in Western countries, were motivated by liberal ideals when they joined the Party; their Communism was simply an extension of their Liberalism. But the conflict between the professed aims of the Party and the satanic means employed to achieve them, soon corrupted and destroyed all those who did not quickly repent.

For, as the former Polish Communist and Marxist philosopher Leszek Kolakowski wrote: “If you build equality by increasing inequality, you’ll be left with inequality; if you want to attain freedom by applying mass terror, the result will be mass terror; if you want to work for a just society through fear and repression, you will get fear and repression rather than universal fraternity… Suppression of the ‘class enemy’, the abolition of civil liberties and indeed terror were accepted as the necessary evil which precedes the new society. Today we can see clearly enough that means define ends, but Communist thinking has always held the reverse to be true.”[3]

These facts were obvious to all those with eyes to see by the mid-1930s; but they were obscured, not only by the Depression in the West, but also by another phenomenon of surpassing barbarity – Italian and German Fascism. Since Fascism was defeated by Communism in the most vicious and large-scale war in history, it has commonly been asserted that they are ideological opposites. Certainly, this was the official view of the Communists themselves; and in the West the older thesis that the two systems are two varieties of “totalitarianism” has come in for much criticism. Nevertheless, in spite of the obvious differences between the two, the bulk of the evidence points to the fact that they are very closely related, and that their war was a civil war – and exceptionally savage precisely because of that. Thus the war correspondent and disillusioned communist Vasily Grossman, in a novel entitled Life and Fate, which was completed in 1960 but published only decades later, emphasizes the similarities between Soviet Communism and German Nazism. In one scene an SS officer is talking to his prisoner, an old Bolshevik. “When we look at one another in the face, we’re neither of us just looking at a face we hate – no, we are gazing into a mirror. That’s the tragedy of our age. Do you really not recognise yourself in us; yourselves and the strength of your will?... You may think you hate us, but what you really hate is yourselves in us… Our victory will be your victory… And if you should conquer, then we shall perish only to live in your victory.”[4]

Richard Pipes has argued that Communism and Fascism are two varieties of “totalitarianism”. The fact that neither system achieved total control of society does not lessen the usefulness of the term, which accurately points to the main thrust of each.[5] The term was first invented in 1923 “by an opponent of Mussolini, Giovanni Amendola (later murdered by the Fascists), who, having observed Mussolini’s systematic subversion of state institutions, concluded that his regime suffered fundamentally from conventional dictatorships. In 1925, Mussolini adopted the term and assigned it a positive meaning. He defined Fascism as ‘totalitarian’ in the sense that it politicized everything ‘human’ as well as ‘spiritual’: ‘Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state’.”[6]

But if the Fascists first used the term, the reality was imbibed from Communist Russia. “All the attributes of [Fascist] totalitarianism had antecedents in Lenin’s Russia: an official, all-embracing ideology; a single party of the elect headed by a ‘leader’ and dominating the state; police terror; the ruling party’s control of the means of communication and the armed forces; central command of the economy. Since these institutions and procedures were in place in the Soviet Union in the 1920s when Mussolini founded his regime and Hitler his party, and were to be found nowhere else, the burden of proving there was no connection between ‘Fascism’ and Communism rests of those who hold this opinion.

“No prominent European socialist before World War I resembled Lenin more closely than Benito Mussolini. Like Lenin, he headed the antirevisionist wing of the country’s Socialist Party; like him, he believed that the worker was not by nature a revolutionary and had to be prodded to radical action by an intellectual elite. However, working in an environment more favourable to his ideas, he did not need to form a splinter party: whereas Lenin, leading a minority wing, had to break away, Mussolini gained a majority in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and ejected the reformists. Had it not been for his reversal, in 1914, of his stand on the war, coming out in favour of Italy’s entry on the Allied side, which resulted in his expulsion from the PSI, he might well have turned into an Italian Lenin. Socialist historians, embarrassed by these facts of Mussolini’s early biography, have either suppressed them or described them as a passing flirtation with socialism by a man whose true intellectual mentor was not Marx, but Nietzsche and Sorel. Such claims, however, are difficult to reconcile with the fact that Italian socialists thought well enough of the future leader of Fascism to name him in 1912 editor in chief of the Party’s organ, Avanti! Far from having a fleeting romance with socialism, Mussolini was fanatically committed to it: until November 1913, and in some respects until early 1920, his ideas on the nature of the working class, the structure and function of the party, and the strategy of the socialist revolution, were remarkably like Lenin’s…

“Like Lenin, he saw in conflict the distinguishing quality of politics. The ‘class struggle’ meant to him warfare in the literal sense of the word: it was bound to assume violent forms because no ruling class ever peacefully surrendered its wealth and power. He admired Marx, whom he called a ‘father and teacher’, not for his economics and sociology, but for being the ‘grand philosopher of worker violence’. He despised ‘lawyer socialists’ who pretended to advance the cause by parliamentary maneuvers. Nor did he have faith in trade unionism, which he believed diverted labor from the class struggle. In 1912, in a passage that could have come from the pen of Lenin, he wrote: ‘A worker who is merely organized turns into a petty bourgeois who obeys only the voice of interest. Every appeal to ideals leaves him deaf.’ He remained faithful to this view even after abandoning socialism: in 1921, as Fascist leader, he would describe workers as ‘by nature… piously and fundamentally pacifistic’. Thus, independently of Lenin, in both his socialist and his Fascist incarnation he repudiated what Russian radicals called ‘spontaneity’: left to his own devices, the worker would not make a revolution but strike a deal with the capitalist, which was the quintessence of Lenin’s social theory.

“These premises confronted Mussolini with the same problem that faced Lenin: how to make a revolution with a class said to be inherently unrevolutionary. He solved it, as did Lenin, by calling for the creation of an elite party to inject into labor the spirit of revolutionary violence. Whereas Lenin’s concept of the vanguard party came from the experience of the People’s Will, Mussolini’s was shaped by the writings of Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto, who in the 1890s and early 1900s popularized the view of politics as contests for power among elite groups…”[7]

The only significant difference between Soviet Communism and Italian Fascism was that Mussolini came to the conclusion that, for his revolutionary purposes, “nationalism was more potent fare than socialism”. In December 1914, he wrote: ‘The nation has not disappeared. We used to believe that it was annihilated. Instead, we see it rise, living, palpitating before us! And understandably so. The new reality does not suppress the truth: class cannot destroy the nation. Class is a collectivity of interests, but the nation is a history of sentiments, traditions, language, culture, ancestry. You can insert the class into the nation. But they do not destroy each other.’ From this it followed that the Socialist Party must lead not only the proletariat, but the entire nation: it must create ‘un socialismo nationale’…”[8]

However, even this difference between the two systems does not appear to be fundamental when we remember that Stalin adopted the slogan: “Socialism in one country”, thereby emphasizing the national uniqueness of Russia. And although the internationalist and class dimensions of Socialism were never denied, nationalist motifs steadily became stronger in Soviet life, reaching a climax in the Second World War, which the Soviets revealingly called the Great “Fatherland” War. Stalin now began to portray himself as the successor of the Tsars – not, of course, Nicholas II, who would remain “bloody Nicholas” to the end – but the more totalitarian (and more bloody) tsars such as Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.

In this policy, as Alan Bullock writes, “sentiment and calculation coincided. To combine the Marxist vision with the deep-seated nationalist and patriotic feelings of the Russian people was to give it a wider and stronger emotional appeal than ideology by itself could generate. As early as June 1934 Pravda had sounded the new note, ‘For the Fatherland’, ‘which alone kindles the flame of heroism, the flame of creative initiative in all fields, in all the realms of our rich, our many-sided life… The defence of the Fatherland is the supreme law… For the Fatherland, for its honour, glory, might and prosperity!’

“The purpose of Stalin’s summons to Kirov to spend the summer in 1934 at Sochi was to join him and Zhdanov in laying down the guidelines for the rewriting of history textbooks. Published in 1936, Remarks Concerning the Conspectus of a Textbook on the History of the USSR produced an abrupt reversal in Soviet historiography, establishing the Soviet regime as the custodian of national interests and traditions. The new history celebrated the great men of Russia’s Tsarist past – Peter the Great, Suvorov, Kutuzov – whose state-building, military victories and territorial conquests had created modern Russia. It was the autocratic tradition… which was highlighted, so establishing a natural link between the new patriotism and the cult of Stalin.”[9]

If we turn from the relationship between Communism and Fascism to that between Communism and Nazism, we again find no fundamental contradictions. There were many similarities between Russia and Germany after the First World War. Both countries had suffered defeat; both were treated as pariahs by the western powers; both bitterly resented this treatment (however much they themselves had contributed to it), and therefore gravitated towards each other. Secret military and trade links were established in the 1920s. More significantly, there was also a trade in ideology.

In 1920 F.M. Vinberg, a Russian officer of German ancestry published, together with a German anti-Semite, the first translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Protocols purported to be the minutes of a meeting of Jewish elders somewhere in the West, but were in fact largely plagiarized from Maurice Joly’s Dialogue aux Enfers entre Montesquieu et Machiavel, published in 1864. When the forgery was demonstrated to Tsar Nicholas II, he said: “Drop the Protocols. One cannot defend a pure cause by dirty methods.”[10] Nevertheless, the forgery continued to exert a powerful influence, especially in the period between the two World Wars. And, as the London Times pointed out, the fact that it was a forgery did not prevent it from being uncannily prophetic…

The Protocols had a particularly profound influence on the Nazis, and especially on Alfred Rosenberg, a Baltic German with a Russian passport, who introduced the forgery to Hitler. Pipes writes: “The Protocols made on the future Führer an overwhelming impression. ‘I have read the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – it simply appalled me,’ he told Hermann Rauschning, an early associate, ‘the stealthiness of the enemy, and his ubiquity! I saw at once that we must copy it – in our own way, of course.’ According to Rauschning, the Protocols served Hitler as a major source of political inspiration. Hitler thus used a spurious manual of Jewish strategy for world domination, not only to depict the Jews as the mortal enemy of Germany, but to carry out his own quest for world domination employing its methods. He so admired the alleged cunning of Jews in their drive to master the world that he decided to adopt fully their ‘ideology’ and ‘program’.

“It was only after he had read the Protocols that Hitler turned anti-Communist: ‘Rosenberg left a permanent mark on Nazi ideology. The party was rabidly anti-Semitic from the moment of its foundation in 1919, but it became obsessed with Russian communism only in 1921-22; and this seems to have been largely Rosenberg’s doing. He provided the link between Russian anti-Semitism of the Black Hundred type and the anti-Semitism of the German racists; more precisely, he took over Vinberg’s view of Bolshevism as a Jewish conspiracy and reinterpreted it in völkisch-racist terms. The resulting fantasy, as expounded in innumerable articles and pamphlets, became an obsessive theme in Hitler’s thinking and in the outlook and propaganda of the Nazi party.’ It has been said that Hitler had only two major political objectives: the destruction of Jewry and the expansion into the East European Lebensraum (‘Living Space’), all other elements of his program, capitalist as well as socialist, being only means to this end. The right-wing Russian theory linking Jews with Communism allowed him to connect these two objectives.

“Thus the ravings of extremist Russian monarchists, who sought and found a scapegoat for the catastrophe that had befallen their country in the ‘hidden hand’ of world Jewry, injected themselves into the political ideology of a party destined before long to acquire total power in Germany. The rationale for the Nazi extermination of Jews came from Russian right-wing circles: it was Vinberg and his friends who first called publicly for the physical extermination of Jews. The Jewish Holocaust thus turned out to be one of the many unanticipated and unintended consequences of the Russian Revolution.”[11]

However, the Nazis borrowed even more from the Russian extreme left-wing, the Communists. In a speech delivered on February 24, 1941 Hitler bluntly stated that “basically National Socialism and Marxism are the same”.[12] And “in a conversation with Rauschning [reported in 1939],” writes Pipes, “he conceded his debt to socialism: ‘I have learned a great deal from Marxism as I do not hesitate to admit. I don’t mean their tiresome social doctrine or the materialist conception of history, or their absurd ‘marginal utility’ theories, and so on. But I have learned from their methods. The difference between them and myself is that I have really put into practice what these peddlers and pen-pushers have timidly begun. The whole of National Socialism is based on it. Look at the workers’ sports clubs, the industrial cells, the mass demonstrations, the propaganda leaflets written specially for the comprehension of the masses; all these new methods of political struggle are essentially Marxist in origin. All I had to do is take over these methods and adapt them to our purpose. I only had to develop logically what Social Democracy repeatedly failed in because of its attempt to realize its evolution within the framework of democracy. National Socialism is what Marxism might have been if it could have broken its absurd and artificial ties with a democratic order.”[13]

This last remark might seem strange at first in view of the fact that it was the Bolsheviks who destroyed the democratic order of Russia, whereas Hitler came to power through elections in a multi-party democratic system. But the paradox is explained if we remember that the cult of the leader was developed much earlier in Nazism, and occupied a much more critical place in its history. Both parties despised and destroyed democracy; but Stalin had to preserve the fiction of democracy for longer – as in the 1936 Constitution, which claimed to be supremely democratic when democracy no longer existed in Russia. That is the main reason why he felt the need to purge his party so thoroughly whereas Hitler did not. It is also the main reason why western intellectuals have always been more generous to Stalin than to Hitler – it is thought, quite wrongly, that since Stalin was at least striving to create a democracy (after all, that was the purpose of the Russian revolution, wasn’t it?), he was better than Hitler, who never denied his contempt for it.

Hitler’s party was distinctly proletarian; it was originally called the German Labor Party, which “combined socialism, anticapitalism, and anticlericalism with German nationalism. In 1918, it renamed itself the German National Socialist Labor Party (DNSAP), adding anti-Semitism to its platform and luring to its ranks demobilized war veterans, shopkeepers, and professional personnel. (The word ‘Labor’ in its name was meant to include ‘all who work’, not only industrial workers.) It was this organization that Hitler took over in 1919. According to Bracher, the ideology of the party in its early years ‘contained a thoroughly revolutionary kernel within an irrational, violence-oriented political ideology. It was in no sense a mere expression of reactionary tendencies: it derived from the world of workers and trade unionists.’ The Nazis appealed to the socialist tradition of German labor, declaring the worker ‘a pillar of the community’, and the ‘bourgeois’ – along with the traditional aristocracy – a doomed class. Hitler, who told associates that he was a ‘socialist’, had the party adopt the red flag and, on coming to power, declared May 1 a national holiday; Nazi Party members were ordered to address one another as ‘comrades’ (Genossen). His conception of the party was, like Lenin’s, that of a militant organization, a Kampfbund or ‘Combat League’… His ultimate aim was a society in which traditional classes would be abolished, and status earned by personal heroism. In typically radical fashion, he envisaged man re-creating himself: ‘Man is becoming god,’ he told Rauschning. ‘Man is god in the making.’”[14]

In spite of their rivalry, Stalin and Hitler were much more complimentary of each other than either was of the Western democrats. Thus “Hitler called Stalin ‘one of the greatest living human beings’. The Soviet leader, he said, ‘towered above the democratic figures of the Anglo-Saxon powers’.”[15] Towards the end, he expressed the wish that he had purged his generals as Stalin had so wisely purged his. Stalin for his part considered Hitler to be “a very able man but not basically intelligent, lacking in culture and with a primitive approach to political matters”[16] – which was mild criticism by comparison with what he said of the great majority of his opponents.

The main difference between Stalinism and Hitlerism is that whereas Stalinism is based on class war, and the superiority of the working class, Hitlerism is based on racial war, and the superiority of the Aryan race…

Although the two systems pursued slightly different paths, the end result was the same: the suppression of all freedom, humanity and religion, and the worship of an infallible man-god. This worship served a similar psychological need in the two countries. According to Ida Vermehren, “the most seductive factor [in Nazism] was Hitler’s messianic image. For Germany found itself in an ideological and ethical vacuum. We had lost our Emperor, our national identity had been damaged. The majority of the population had no religious faith. I think that for many, National Socialism was a substitute religion which aroused a deep enthusiasm and provided a new source of strength. People wanted to get stuck in and work for a better life.” Much the same could be said of Russia, especially after the most educated and religious people had been exterminated. The remainder found in the worship of Stalin a substitute for the faith in Orthodoxy and Tsarism which they had lost.

The religious nature of Marxism was recognized in 1908 by A.V. Lunacharsky, who wrote that Marxism was “the fifth great religion formulated by Judaism”. And in 1937 Winston Churchill said: “It is a strange thing that certain parts of the world should now be wishing to revive the old religious wars. There are those non-God religions Nazism and Communism… I repudiate both and will have nothing to do with either… They are as alike as two peas. Tweedledum and Tweedledee were violently contrasted compared with them. You leave out God and you substitute the devil.”[17]

However, Churchill came to see Hitler as more devilish than Stalin, saying that if Hitler had invaded Hell, he would have found it within himself “to make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons”. Once the atheist Stalin said to Churchill: “May God help you”. Churchill replied: “God, of course, is on our side.” Stalin replied: “And the devil is, naturally, on mine, and through our combined efforts we shall defeat the enemy.”[18]

Although explicitly anti-theist, Soviet power was not without elements of religiosity, and tried to introduce its own feasts and rites of passage to take the place of Orthodox rituals. The same was true, to a still greater degree, of the regimes of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. For the world before 1914, though decadent and containing all the elements that were to combine into the horrors of the post-1914 world, was still largely religious, and religion could not simply be destroyed or ignored. Therefore Soviet power injected ritual elements of Orthodox Christianity into its antichristian way of life; Italian Fascism adopted large elements of Catholicism; and German Nazism employed elements of both Protestantism and pre-Christian Nordic paganism.[19]

The mass worship of the most evil of men by modern, educated people requires an explanation. The religious mind will find it in demon-possession, in Satan’s taking over of a nation that has abandoned its faith and given in to the most primitive passions of envy, lust and hatred. The demonic nature of the Russian revolution hardly needs demonstrating. Many contemporaries reported that the coming of Soviet power was as if the country had been invaded by demons, and there were many incidents in which demonic activity was almost palpable. [20] Similar incidents were reported in Nazi Germany.[21]

Psychoanalysis, which grew into prominence at about this time, also provides some insight into the phenomenon. Thus Freud considered it too simplistic to explain the worship of the masses for their totalitarian leaders as the consequence of fear of persecution, or because of political or economic motives. That would be to treat the matter in “far too rational a manner... Libidinal ties are what characterize a group”.[22] It is the love of the people for their leader that creates the group and the relationships within the group, which disappear “at the same time as the leader”.[23] (This was true of Nazism, but less so of Stalinism.) “The credulity of love is the most fundamental source of authority”.[24]

Hitler himself came to a similar conclusion about his powers, emphasizing that the masses should stop thinking and surrender themselves to the power of instinct: “The masses are like an animal that obeys its instincts. They do not reach conclusions by reasoning… At a mass meeting, thought is eliminated… Mastery always means the transmission of a stronger will to a weaker one, [which follows] something in the nature of a physical or biological law.”[25]

Certainly, it seems impossible to explain the passionate love of the peoples of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia for their leaders without invoking some such deep psychological motive – stirred up and exploited by the demonic powers of the spirit world.

Let us consider, for example, the quasi-hypnotic effect that Hitler had on the German masses. The 1934 Nuremberg rally, writes Martin Gilbert, “had seemed to Hitler the ideal vehicle for nationwide propaganda, using documentary film with artistic presentation. He entrusted this task to a former actress and fiction film maker, Leni Riefenstahl, who worked to turn the 1934 rally into an epic paean of praise for the ‘Leader’. Her film Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willes) was finished in 1935, and gave German audiences an almost mystical view of Hitler’s charismatic appeal: the film opens with Hitler in an aeroplane flying to Nuremberg, and descending through the clouds to the city and the rally, where the Nazi Party officials proclaim repeatedly: ‘Hitler is Germany, the Party is Germany, thus Germany is Hitler and the Party is Germany’. The film historian Charles Musser writes: ‘The exchange of looks and salutes creates a bond of obedience between these different levels, one in which the identity of the self is only found through identifying with the nation and the Party. In the process, Hitler and the various troops are eroticized by Riefestahl’s adoring vision.’”[26]

We see a similar process taking place in Stalinist Russia. A Lithuanian writer wrote: “I approached Stalin’s portrait, took it off the wall, placed it on the table and, resting my head in my hands, I gazed and meditated. What should I do? The Leader’s face, as always so serene, his eyes so clear-sighted, they penetrated into the distance. It seems that his penetrating look pierces my little room and goes out to embrace the entire globe… With my every fibre, every nerve, every drop of blood I feel that, at this moment, nothing exists in this entire world but this dear and beloved face.”[27]

The masses’ eroticization of their leaders went together with their own brutalization. For “perhaps the most fundamental affinity among the three totalitarian movements lay in the realm of psychology: Communism, Fascism and National Socialism exacerbated and exploited popular resentments – class, racial, and ethnic – to win mass support and to reinforce the claim that they, not the democratically elected governments, expressed the true will of the people. All three appealed to the emotion of hate.”[28]

Thus anti-war films, such as Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, were mocked in Germany, and violence and hardness were exalted over tenderness and compassion.

“Hitler rejected ‘the loathsome humanitarian morality’, which he followed Nietzsche in seeing as a mask for people’s defects: ‘In the end, only the urge for self-preservation can conquer. Beneath it is so-called humanity, the expression of a mixture of stupidity, cowardice, and know-it-all conceit, will melt like snow in the March sun. Mankind has grown great in eternal struggle, and only in eternal peace does it perish.’…”[29]

The same moral revaluation, the same emphasis on violence and steely hardness (Stalin comes from the Russian word for “steel”) was taking place in Stalinist Russia.

“Nadezhda Mandelstam described how ‘Thou shalt not kill’ was identified with ‘bourgeois’ morality: ‘A number of terms such as ‘honour’ and ‘conscience’ went out of use at this time – concepts like these were easily discredited, now the right formula had been found.’ She noticed that people were going through a metamorphosis: ‘a process of turning into wood – that is what comes over those who lose their sense of values’.”[30]

“The spirit of violence,” writes Fr. Seraphim Rose, “has been most thoroughly incarnated, in our century, by the Nihilist regimes of Bolshevism and National Socialism; it is to these there have been assigned the principal roles in the Nihilist task of the destruction of the Old Order. The two, whatever their psychological dissimilarities, and the historical ‘accidents’ which placed them in opposing camps, have been partners in their frenzied accomplishment of this task. Bolshevism, to be sure, has had the more ‘positive’ role of the two, since it has been able to justify its monstrous crimes by an appeal to a pseudo-Christian, messianic idealism which Hitler scorned; Hitler’s role in the Nihilist program was more specialized and provincial, but nonetheless essential.

“Even in failure – in fact, precisely in the failure of its ostensible aims – Nazism served the cause of this program. Quite apart from the political and ideological benefits which the Nazi interlude in European history gave to the Communist powers (Communism, it is now widely and erroneously believed, if evil in itself, still cannot be as evil as Nazism), Nazism had another, more obvious and direct, function. Goebbels explained this function in his radio broadcasts in the last days of the War. ‘The bomb-terror spares the dwellings of neither rich nor poor; before the labor offices of total war the last class barriers have had to go down… Together with the monuments of culture there crumble also the last obstacles to the fulfilment of our revolutionary task. Now that everything is in ruins, we are forced to rebuild Europe. In the past, private possessions tied us to a bourgeois restraint. Now the bombs, instead of killing all Europeans, have only smashed the prison walls which kept them captive… In trying to destroy Europe’s future, the enemy has only succeeded in smashing its past; and with that, everything old and outworn has gone.’

“Nazism thus, and its war, have done for Central Europe (and less thoroughly, for Western Europe) what Bolshevism did in its Revolution for Russia: destroyed the Old Order, and thus cleared the way for the building of the ‘new’. Bolshevism then had no difficulty in taking over where Nazism had left off; within a few years the whole of Central Europe had passed under the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ – i.e., Bolshevist tyranny – for which Nazism had effectively prepared the way.” [31]

The above analysis may help us to understand how, like Pilate and Herod, the Communists and the Nazis could, after years of reviling each other, form a pact in 1939. To the amazement of blinkered fanatics on both the right and the left, the two leaders were able to divide up East-Central Europe between them, with Stalin taking the Baltic States and Eastern Poland. For they shared the same complete disregard for moral norms, the same contempt for human life and liberty, the same disregard of public opinion, even in their own countries. For Hitler’s National Socialism was only a variation on Stalin’s “Socialism in one Country”.

This was clearly seen by the famous English writer George Orwell, as George Watson explains. “Writing as a socialist just after the fall of France, in The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), he saw the disaster as ‘a physical debunking of capitalism’. Orwell was in no doubt that Nazi Germany was a socialist state, or at least a state with a socialist economy. It believed that competition was inefficient as well as evil and that planning was inevitably the way of the future.

“The fall of France, Orwell argued, had shown that ‘a planned economy is stronger than a planless one’, and National Socialism had triumphed by taking from socialism, ‘just such features as will make it efficient for war purposes’. Think what you please, he went on, about its foreign policy: ‘internally Germany has a good deal in common with a socialist state,’ and Hitler will go down in history as ‘the man who made the City of London laugh on the wrong side of its face’ by showing financiers that planning works and a free-for-all does not. All of which prefigures, by several years, one of the most famous sentences he ever wrote, at the conclusion to Animal Farm (1945):

“’The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which…’”[32]


Vladimir Moss.

January 9/22, 2011.


[1] George Orwell prophesied this convergence at the end of his post-war novel Animal Farm, when the pigs (the communists) and the men (the capitalists) looked indistinguishable to the impoverished animals.

[2] Strictly speaking, Communism preaches the withering away of the State. But the State had to expand to its maximum first. Thus Stalin declared at the Sixteenth Party Congress in 1930: “We are for the withering away of the state. But at the same time we stand for the strengthening of the proletarian dictatorship, which constitutes the most powerful, the mightiest of all governing powers that have ever existed. The highest development of governmental power for the purpose of preparing the conditions for the withering away of governmental power, this is the Marxist formula. Is this ‘contradictory’? Yes, it is ‘contradictory’. But this contradiction is life, and it reflects completely the Marxist dialectic” (in Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, London: HarperCollins, 1991, p. 467).

[3] Kolakowski, in Bullock, op. cit., p. 464.

[4] Grossman, in Arkady Ostrovsky, “Flirting with Stalin”, Prospect, September, 2008, p. 33.

[5] “’Totalitarian’ does not mean that they were ‘total’ parties, either all inclusive or wielding complete power; it means that they were parties concerned with the ‘totality’ of the societies in which they worked. In this narrower sense both movements did have totalitarian aspiration” (Richard Overy, The Dictators, London: Penguin, 2005, p. 173).

[6] Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime, 1919-1924, London: Fontana, 1995, p. 241.

[7] Pipes, op. cit., pp. 245-247.

[8] Pipes, op. cit., pp. 249-250.

[9] Bullock, op. cit., pp. 701-702. The word “autocratic” here should be substituted by “absolutist”.

[10] See Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, London: Serif, 1996, pp. 126, 285-289.

[11] Pipes, op. cit., p. 258. For a more detailed study of this question, see Michael Kellogg, The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Ä–migrés and the Making of National Socialism, 1917-1945, Cambridge University Press, 2005; and the review of it by Michael Hoffman, “The Russian Roots of Nazism”, Revisionist History, no. 39, January, 2006.

[12] Pipes, op. cit., p. 259, note.

[13] Pipes, op. cit., p. 259.

[14] Pipes, op. cit., p. 260.

[15] Jonathan Fenby, Alliance, London: Pocket Books, 2006, p. 16.

[16] Fenby, op. cit., p. 239.

[17] Churchill, in Michael Burleigh, Sacred Causes, London: Harper Perennial, 2007, p. 209.

[18] Fenby, op. cit., pp. 65, 152.

[19] Later totalitarian regimes, such as Chinese and Korean communism, have incorporated pagan ancestor-worship.

[20] Thus the Catacomb Christian P.M. writes: “I want to tell about the miracles of God of which I was a witness. In our village they closed the church and made it into a club. And then they declared that they would be showing a film – this was the first opening of the club. In the church everything was as it had been before, even the iconostasis was standing with its icons. They put in benches, hung up a screen and began to show the film. About half an hour passed, and then suddenly the people began to shout. Those who were at the back jumped up and rushed towards the exit, while those in front fell on the floor or crawled under the benches. What had happened? As many people later recounted, the holy Great Martyr George came out of an icon that was on the iconostasis on a horse, and taking a spear, galloped at the people, who began to flee in fear. But that was not the end of it. Somehow they got at any rate some of the people together again and continued to show the film. It was being shown by a mechanic and his assistant. And suddenly up in the choir they began to sing the Cherubic hymn – and so loudly that the film was scarcely audible. At that point they decided that some believers had climbed up and wanted to interrupt the showing of the film. So about seven members of the Komsomol and the assistant climbed up in order to catch them all and bring them down. But then they said that when they had climbed up the stairs the singing stopped, and they rejoiced – the believers had got frightened and fallen silent. But when they climbed up into the choir they saw that it was empty. They stood in bewilderment and could not understand how the singers could have run away. And then suddenly in the midst of them unseen singers began to sing the Cherubic hymn. Pursued by an unknown fear, they rushed to get out, not knowing the way, pushing and shoving each other. The assistant mechanic, who was running in front, suddenly fell down, and everyone ran over him since there was no other way because of the narrowness of the place. Having run down, they rushed out into the street. Now the showing was finally abandoned. The assistant mechanic was ill for a month and died, while the mechanic left, and nobody wanted to go to work in the club as a mechanic for any money. So from that time they stopped having a cinema in it.” ( (in Russian).

[21] Thus “two British guests at a Hitler rally in Berlin in 1934, seated in a stadium just feet behind him, watched him captivate his listeners with the familiar rising passion and jarring voice. ‘Then an amazing thing happened,’ continued the account: ‘[we] both saw a blue flash of lightning come out of Hitler’s back… We were surprised that those of us close behind Hitler had not all been struck dead.’ The two men afterwards discussed whether Hitler was actually possessed at certain moments by the Devil: ‘We came to the conclusion that he was.’” (in Overy, op. cit., pp. 13-14)

[22] Freud, Group Psychology, p. 103; in Philip Rieff, Freud; The Mind of the Moralist, University of Chicago Press, 1979, p. 233.

[23] Freud, Group Psychology, p. 94; in Rieff, op. cit., p. 235.

[24] Freud, Three Essays, p. 150; in Rieff, op. cit., p. 237.

[25] Overy, op. cit., p. 19.

[26] Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, vol. 2: 1933-1951, London: HarperCollins, 1998, p. 83. Italics mine (V.M.). “Consider this diary entry written by a witness of Stalin’s visit to a young communist congress in April 1936: ‘And HE stood, a little weary, pensive and stately. One could feel the tremendous habit of power, the force of it, and at the same time something feminine and soft. I look about: Everybody had fallen in love with this gentle, inspired, laughing face. To see him, simply to see him, was happiness for all of us’” (Overy, p. 129).

[27] Quoted in Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, London: Jonathan Cape, 1999, p. 253.

[28] Pipes, op. cit., p. 262. My italics (V.M.).

[29] Glover, op. cit., p. 326.

[30] Glover, op. cit., pp. 260-261.

[31] Rose, Nihilism, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2001, pp. 76-77.

[32] Watson, “The Eye-Opener of 1939”, History Today, August, 2004, p. 51.

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