From Marxism to Stalinism, continued

While I still can’t get to the main point, another brief diversion. It is common for city mobs to decide the outcome of revolutions, and Bolsheviks won mobile legions through their anti-war and anti-hierarchy propaganda. Taken to the extreme, it incapacitated the Russian army on the German front — an army of peasants deracinated by months in the trenches, and of workers who were in essence deracinated peasants: a humongous reincarnation of the “mob” that British conservatives had been so afraid of a century and a half earlier. The Bolsheviks would later uproot millions to build a new society, but in 1917, they took advantage of the war’s cutting millions off their traditional ways.

And there was their wild, unbelievable populism: Bolsheviks promised land and peace. Most peasants wanted land, and most people wanted peace; at what price, though? Whatever, said the Bolsheviks; let there be peace (Germany can have Ukraine if they want it), and yes, all land now belongs to the nation (peasants can have the land if they need it). Marx, however, did not leave step-by-step instructions on building Communism anywhere, much less in a half-Slavic, half-Uralic country (the 1848 generation of German revolutionaries were at best condescending to Slavdom): Lenin and Trotsky had to prove themselves masters of improvisation.

More later.

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