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Long Read of the Week: Suicide of the Liberals

[For some days now, other bloggers, people in my email, and commentators here have urged me to read   Suicide of the Liberals by Gary Saul Morson    They were all correct. This is an essay of special import to all those among our citizens who have forgotten history —  or were never taught it in the first place.]

Anyone wearing a uniform was a candidate for a bullet to the head or sulfuric acid to the face. Country estates were burnt down (“rural illuminations”) and businesses were extorted or blown up. Bombs were tossed at random into railroad carriages, restaurants, and theaters. Far from regretting the death and maiming of innocent bystanders, terrorists boasted of killing as many as possible, either because the victims were likely bourgeois or because any murder helped bring down the old order. A group of anarcho-­communists threw bombs laced with nails into a café bustling with two hundred customers in order “to see how the foul bourgeois will squirm in death agony.”

Instead of the pendulum’s swinging back—a metaphor of inevitability that excuses people from taking a stand—the killing grew and grew, both in numbers and in cruelty. Sadism replaced simple killing. As Geifman explains, “The need to inflict pain was transformed from an abnormal irrational compulsion experienced only by unbalanced personalities into a formally verbalized obligation for all committed revolutionaries.” One group threw “traitors” into vats of boiling water. Others were still more inventive. Women torturers were especially admired.

How did educated, liberal society respond to such terrorism? What was the position of the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party and its deputies in the Duma (the parliament set up in 1905)? Though Kadets advocated democratic, constitutional procedures, and did not themselves engage in ­terrorism, they aided the terrorists in any way they could. Kadets collected money for terrorists, turned their homes into safe houses, and called for total amnesty for arrested terrorists who pledged to continue the mayhem. Kadet Party central committee member N. N. Shchepkin declared that the party did not regard terrorists as criminals at all, but as saints and martyrs. The official Kadet paper, Herald of the Party of People’s Freedom, never published an article condemning political assassination. The party leader, Paul Milyukov, declared that “all means are now legitimate . . . and all means should be tried.” When asked to condemn terrorism, another liberal leader in the Duma, Ivan Petrunkevich, famously replied: “Condemn terror? That would be the moral death of the party!”

Not just lawyers, teachers, doctors, and engineers, but even industrialists and bank directors raised money for the terrorists. Doing so signaled advanced opinion and good manners. A quote attributed to Lenin—“When we are ready to kill the capitalists, they will sell us the rope”—would have been more accurately rendered as: “They will buy us the rope and hire us to use it on them.” True to their word, when the Bolsheviks gained control, their organ of terror, the Cheka, “liquidated” members of all opposing parties, beginning with the Kadets. Why didn’t the liberals and businessmen see it coming?

That question has bothered many students of revolutionary movements. Revolutions never succeed without the support of wealthy, liberal, educated society. Yet revolutionaries seldom conceal that their success entails the seizure of all wealth, the suppression of dissenting opinion, and the murder of class enemies. Lenin, after all, was by no means the only bloodthirsty Russian radical. In 1907, Ivan Pavlov—not the Nobel prize-winning scientist, but one of the brightest theoreticians of the especially violent ­Maximalists—published The Purification of Mankind, which divided humanity into ethical races. In this analysis, exploiters, vaguely and broadly identified, constituted a race, “morally inferior to our animal predecessors,” which must be exterminated, children and all, by the morally superior race, whose best members were the terrorists themselves. Remarkably enough, this program evoked no indignation, among other Maximalists or even among other socialists, however moderate. Another prominent Maximalist, M. A. Engel’gardt, argued for a red terror that would kill at least twelve million people. As if anticipating the Khmer Rouge, one anarchist group sought to establish equality by killing all educated people.

RTWT AT Suicide of the Liberals by Gary Saul Morson | Articles | First Things

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Casey Klahn September 24, 2020, 1:07 PM

    Yep. This is like the concordance and commentary of Marxist shitstained politics. I am not too happy to be watching their roll-out of commie-ism in front of our very eyes.

    It’s why the apparent lack of political will on the Left is probably a cover. They’ll show us their political will, good and hard, when the time is right. Still think Biden is running for president?

    My own mind runs this way: I ask questions as a way to predict their moves. Will they make their worst, most terrible, moves right before, or soon after, the Trump landslide election? How much support will dumb American liberals provide them when they start their kinetic revolution? Since the FBI and the CIA, and possibly most at the Pentagon, are either clueless or fellows of the Left, is there any organized counter to an attempted revolution by Marxists?

    How much rope is required to hang a Marxist in the street? What is the most plentiful caliber of long rifle ammunition in the US? Where are the gasoline reserves and what’s it take to protect that? Is Esper really that gay, or is it just an act?

    Stay tuned.

  • gwbnyc September 24, 2020, 1:25 PM

    a post by Scott Johnson on this topic at Powerline with related links-


  • ghostsniper September 24, 2020, 1:41 PM

    I keep going over in my mind the email I received a few weeks ago from a long time client that let loose with both barrels on my ass in spite of knowing very well that I have always been anti-ALL-gov’t and rarely show any preference to any gov’t employee. He knew my stance very well yet he still blew up on me with his anti-Trump stance.

    Back n forth, over and over again, I almost have his email memorized. I am mesmerized by it. It is so unlike him. I have known him for more than 30 years. But now I know another version of him and it doesn’t dovetail with what I already know of him. Distance is my enemy here, as he is in FL and I ain’t, so no eyeball to eyeball confrontation can take place. And we have not communicated since. I am presuming he has written me off, as should I, him.

    Yes, that email has unlimited free rent in my brain, much like a design issue or some such, that is unsolved yet needs to be solved, so I roll it around continuously looking for a solution and I’m still not finding it. There may not be one.

    Suppose you’re driving along that deserted country road late at night and then right there, bigger’n Stuttgart, a UFO makes it appearance. Looming large and all up in your grill. There is no denying it exists in spite of your knowledge of reality. How do you explain a thing that is not explainable? That is what I have been dealing with.

    I can get over the notion that the relationship is gone, that’s been done before. But a complete flip-out into insanity almost before my very eyes, well, I have never experienced that before and, it defies my long term experience with human nature. Rarely am I at a loss for words. Rarer still that I cannot solve a problem. But I think I may have met my match in this one. I have never completed a Rubik’s Cube, I have never finished a Labyrinth, and I cannot see those hidden images inside those squiggly lined posters that others see so easily. This may be one of those things where I never find a solution and I’ll live with it. But those other things were inanimate and this current one is human and that makes a diff. To me. I need to some how let it go and move on but doing so on a 30 year relationship, and so suddenly and quizzically is most difficult. Perhaps he is a kulak. Or worse. Maybe I should be glad for that distance between us.

  • Auntie Analogue September 24, 2020, 3:50 PM

    About a week ago I read the Morson essay and found it illuminating.

    Russian proverb: “The fish rots from the head down.”

  • James ONeil September 25, 2020, 10:46 AM

    OK, take 1917, add a dash of kungflu, a smidgen of systemic whatever, a splash of black, just a touch of blue, a pinch of virtue signaling and all at once it’s 2020!

  • Casey Klahn September 25, 2020, 10:56 AM

    Top of Drudge rn:
    “Fear of militarized election,” and a picture of the pentagon. I warned of this here before, didn’t I? An attempt to stick a wedge between the civilian side and the military. This is a tell that kinetics are on the table next.

    In other news, if believable, mailed ballots ditched or dumpstered all over the place.