What we learned, the hard way, from the Russian revolution


National Post, 9 November 2017

The consensus of respectable opinion on communism turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There's a lesson in that for us today

That day in November 1917 when Vladimir Lenin and his Bolsheviks seized power in Russia may have been the darkest day in the history of humanity. What was introduced into history that day, in Russia first, but later in China and elsewhere, was the most lethal phenomenon ever witnessed.

Totalitarianism was not new; the aftermath of the French Revolution had already brought that bloody and brutal reality to the heart of Europe. The French terror was an early form of secular extremism, but Lenin went further and innovated in that regard; the Soviet Union was the world’s first officially atheistic state. State atheism, in Moscow and Berlin and Beijing, would make the twentieth century a slaughterhouse.

What was novel was the reach of the Soviet communists. There was no area of life that state coercion would not touch – the economy would be planned, education would be completely revised, religion would be eliminated, social classes would be reconstructed. All of it would be supervised by an omnipresent state, enforced by a secret police that under the cover of darkness could ship anyone off to Siberia, or Lubyanka, or directly to the grave. Over time, the communists wouldn’t bother waiting for darkness, but wrought their tyranny in the light of day.

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