“Men like Trot­sky and the other lead­ers of the Bol­she­viks wrote of the mer­ci­less pros­e­cu­tion of revo­lu­tion, but Stalin was ruth­less­ness per­son­i­fied. He was not like the in­tel­lec­tu­als; he had no in­ter­est in their the­o­ries and delu­sions”

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The 100th an­niver­sary of the Rus­sian Revo­lu­tion is ap­proach­ing. It was a revo­lu­tion based not merely on hope but on the cer­tainty that the hu­man con­di­tion could be filled with equal­ity, plenty and free­dom. It cre­ated a regime that was will­ing and felt com­pelled to go to any lengths to cre­ate that per­fec­tion, but that regime ended in 1991, ex­hausted by the squalor it had cre­ated.

The Rus­sian Revo­lu­tion was in­spired by the work of Karl Marx, and that work was the re­duc­tio ad ab­sur­dum of the French En­light­en­ment. The En­light­en­ment had ar­gued that hu­man­ity was en­gaged in progress – knowl­edge was con­stantly ac­cu­mu­lat­ing and, with that, the hu­man con­di­tion was con­stantly im­prov­ing. At the cen­tre of this process was rea­son, which would drive progress. And its main thrust was that the most per­fect gov­ern­ment was one that pro­moted the prin­ci­ple of hu­man equal­ity.

The agent of all of this was the in­tel­lec­tual, who placed rea­son at the cen­tre of all things, and there­fore was the one who would de­liver progress. The in­tel­lec­tual would un­der­stand the ne­ces­sity of im­prov­ing the hu­man con­di­tion and there­fore un­der­stand that any­one who im­peded this was the en­emy. The in­tel­lec­tual be­came a politi­cian seek­ing power, and then driv­ing the masses to­ward a trans­for­ma­tion of hu­man life.

But the En­light­en­ment pre­sented a para­dox.

If hu­man progress was cer­tain, then why should the in­tel­lec­tual have to un­der­take the ef­fort and risk of driv­ing it for­ward?

But there was an­other para­dox. The in­tel­lec­tual was also hun­gry for a sig­nif­i­cance be­yond those with whom he shared his life. He hun­gered for power and recog­ni­tion, and there­fore the vi­sion of progress be­ing his to de­liver to hu­man­ity was tremen­dously se­duc­tive. The para­dox needed ex­am­i­na­tion by the con­tem­pla­tive. But the con­tem­pla­tive by­passed the para­dox and presided over the French Revo­lu­tion. And those who thwarted progress had to be elim­i­nated. The in­tel­lec­tu­als dis­played the ruth­less­ness of pure logic, a logic that saw the peo­ple as tools to be shaped.

Marx took the En­light­en­ment’s im­pulse to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion. He be­lieved not only in progress, but in progress that would re­sult in the per­fec­tion of hu­man­ity. That per­fec­tion would lead to the end of scarcity and the emer­gence of true hu­man equal­ity. This was in­evitable be­cause cap­i­tal­ism’s in­ter­nal con­tra­dic­tions would ul­ti­mately de­stroy it, free­ing the pro­le­tariat to im­pose a dic­ta­tor­ship that would forge this re­al­ity.

The prob­lem, how­ever, was that the pro­le­tariat, shat­tered by cap­i­tal­ism, would be un­able to rise up and build the new or­der. Again, the ten­sion be­tween the in­evitable and the ne­ces­sity of hu­man ac­tion showed it­self. Marx tried to solve the prob­lem by ar­gu­ing that a rev­o­lu­tion­ary party would emerge from the pro­le­tariat and im­pose a dic­ta­tor­ship that would be the agent to both or­gan­ise the work­ers and forge a new hu­man­ity.

Vladimir Lenin fo­cused on build­ing a com­mu­nist party. The prob­lem, he ar­gued, was that the work­ing class suf­fered from “false con­scious­ness.” It did not know what its own in­ter­ests were be­cause of its con­di­tion and there­fore couldn’t free it­self. The Com­mu­nist Party had to be built from those who had pierced the veil of false con­scious­ness and saw clearly what needed to be done. It wouldn’t sim­ply lead the work­ing class; it would com­pel the work­ers to­ward progress. And the peo­ple who could see through false con­scious­ness were the in­tel­lec­tu­als, who came to be the lead­ers of the

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