At the TLS web site , John Gray reviews Vladimir Tismaneanu’s The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century . Among other things, Gray highlights the continuities between Communism and Fascism.

Soviet Russia disenfranchised “former people,” a designation that, according to Tismaneanu implied that they “were not quite human.” Gray adds, “disenfranchised groups included functionaries of the tsarist police and military, class aliens who lived off unearned income, clergy of all religions and anyone economically dependent on those so far listed. Debarred from the rationing system (for many the chief source of sustenance), liable to have their property confiscated, and prohibited from seeking public office, people in these categories – along with their families, since being a former person was defined as an inheritable condition – were excluded from society. The system of categories, Tismaneanu writes, was ‘the prototype taxonomy for the terror that was to follow in later years.’ Denying some human groups the moral standing that normally goes with being a person, this act formed the basis for the Soviet project of purging society of the human remnants of the past.”

He elaborates that this is “one of the grounds for Tismaneanu’s belief that in important respects Communism and Fascism were at one. He is clear that ‘Communism is not Fascism, and Fascism is not Communism. Each totalitarian experiment has its own irreducible attributes.’ Even so, the two were alike in viewing mass killing as a legitimate instrument of social engineering. Communism, like Fascism, undoubtedly founded its alternative, illiberal modernity on the conviction that certain groups could be deservedly murdered. The Communist project, in such countries as the USSR, China, Cuba, Romania, or Albania, was based precisely on the conviction that certain social groups were irretrievably alien and deservedly murdered.’”

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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