Tag: Stalin

For Any Leftist Who Has Spent Too Much Time in Meetings…

…You aren’t alone! This was the utopian conclusion to visionary Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky’s 1922 poem “All Meetinged Out.” It’s early morning; I greet the dawn with a dream: “Oh, how about just one more meeting regarding the eradication of all meetings!” Lenin was not a fan of the experimental Mayakovsky (Stalin, on the other hand, would later write that “Mayakovsky was and remains the best and most talented poet of our Soviet epoch.”) Even so, Lenin valued “All Meetinged Out” for its anti-bureaucratic sentiment.

The only people who cared about literature were the KGB

Cornell historian Holly Case has a fascinating piece in The Chronicle Review on Stalin as editor. Reminds me of that George Steiner line that the only people in the 20th century who cared about literature were the KGB. Here are some excerpts. But read the whole thing. Joseph Djugashvili was a student in a theological seminary when he came across the writings of Vladimir Lenin and decided to become a Bolshevik revolutionary. Thereafter, in addition to blowing things up, robbing banks, and organizing strikes, he became an editor, working at two papers in Baku and then as editor of the first Bolshevik daily, Pravda. Lenin admired Djugashvili’s editing; Djugashvili admired Lenin, and rejected 47 articles he submitted to Pravda. Djugashvili (later […]

The History of Fear, Part 4

Today, in part 4 of our series on the intellectual history of fear, we turn to Hannah Arendt’s theory of total terror, which she developed in The Origins of Totaltarianism (and then completely overhauled in Eichmann in Jerusalem.) I’m more partial, as I make clear in my book, to Eichmann than to Origins. But Origins has always been the more influential text, at least until recently. It’s a problematic though fascinating book (the second part, on imperialism, is especially wonderful). But one of the reasons it was able to gain such traction is that it managed to meld Montesquieu’s theory of despotic terror with Tocqueville’s theory of democratic anxiety. It became the definitive statement of Cold War social thought in […]

David Brooks: The Last Stalinist

David Brooks disapproves of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Snowden’s actions, Brooks says, are a betrayal of virtually every commitment and connection Snowden has ever made: his oath to his country, his promise to his employer, his loyalty to his friends, and more. But in one of those precious pirouettes of paradox that only he can perform, Brooks sees those betrayals as a symptom of a deeper pathology: Snowden’s inability to make commitments and connections. According to The Washington Post, he has not been a regular presence around his mother’s house for years. When a neighbor in Hawaii tried to introduce himself, Snowden cut him off and made it clear he wanted no neighborly relationships. He went to work for Booz […]

Protocols of Machismo: On the Fetish of National Security, Part I

As part of my ongoing series of short takes from The Reactionary Mind, I excerpt here chapter 9, “Protocols of Machismo.” This chapter originally appeared as a review essay in the London Review of Books in 2005. Because that piece remains behind the firewall, I’ve decided to reproduce the chapter here in its entirety: Part 1 today, Part 2, I hope, tomorrow. In the last several months, I’ve spent much time defending the state against both libertarians and anarchists. In this chapter, however, I go after the state and one of its most powerful and primary fetishes: the doctrine of national security. I also expand beyond my analysis of conservative intellectuals, taking on prominent liberal theorists like Michael Walzer and, […]