The first adjective that comes to mind for "liberal" may be "touchy-feely." The best adjective for a Stalinist might be "murderous." That's a pretty big difference. I would never want to mistake a well-meaning liberal for a nasty Stalinist. At the same time, I hope we don't fail to spot any Stalinists who might be looking for mischief and pretending to be liberals. Certainly the mainstream media aren't interested in the difference.
The term "Stalinist" is historically justified by undeniable evidence, including testimony from thousands of former Stalin collaborators. So this is not a question to take lightly, as long as we are careful to separate undeniable facts from mere allegations.
I've started to gently question the beliefs of the liberals I know, without getting into any loud argument. Much to my surprise, some of the gentle-sounding people I know actually talk murderously at times. I wouldn't have believed it, because these are people I like a lot. They have a warm side. In their own minds they all believe they are driven by love and compassion. And yet, some of them -- certainly not most -- seem ready to hang the current media scapegoat from the nearest gallows.
I also know a lot of really sweet, dumb liberals, people who are so desperate to be loving that they rationalize all the nonsense they are fed by our media.
It helps to hang on to a pretty high standard of proof, so you don't start seeing Stalinists at every meeting of the Unitarian Church.
I don't think we are anywhere near a Gulag Archipelago in the United States. I do think it is important to know if there are real Stalinists around -- as there undoubtedly were during Stalin's bloody thirty-year reign (1922-1953). We know historically that the Manhattan Project was penetrated by physicists who turned out to be Stalinists -- like Klaus Fuchs, who turned over nuclear secrets to Stalin, and was rewarded with a lifetime appointment to the East German Politburo. I have the feeling that Saul Alinsky was very close to being a real Stalinist, as I will suggest below. These are not the imaginary Communists that are supposed to hide under every paranoid's bed. These folks were and are real. I wish it weren't so. Sometimes you have to face unpleasant realities.
About five years ago a sweet lady in her 60s openly expressed the hope that somebody would assassinate George W. Bush. That goes far beyond decent political debate. Expressions of murderous rage were not exactly unusual on the left during the Bush years. A lot of them were right out in the open. A lot of the European media freely expressed murderous rage toward the United States and George W. Bush in the last several years. Don't imagine they have changed much; they are just quieter today.
I suspect that real Stalinists are different, though. If you look at the record of totalitarian murder in the 20th century, about 100 million murdered by Communist regimes, and another 40 million or so by the Nazis and other fascist parties, including war victims, there are those who kill for strategic purposes, and those who kill from rage. Stalinists killed strategically, because they thought mass murder was necessary to achieve Paradise on Earth. They were often intellectuals who simply came to the "rational" conclusion that a whole category of their fellow human beings must die, always for some "higher purpose."
That is literally the argument we see from Karl Marx onward. Yes, the State can brainwash the children of the capitalist class, but you may have to kill their parents. No, there are kulaks who cannot be tolerated in the Soviet Union, and they just have to die. No, there is no changing a Jew into a decent human being; it's all in the genes, and you just have to kill them all to keep the poison from spreading.
Malcolm Muggeridge, who was Moscow correspondent for The Guardian in the 1930s, has written about such cold killer types in his autobiography. Many Stalinists were journalists, Muggeridge's press colleagues in Moscow. They saw the Soviet-made famine in the Ukraine, but they simply lied and denied its existence to their readers in the West, and some of them justified the killing in their own minds. An astonishing number of "bloody-minded professors" in the West were just such kinds of "strategic" Stalinists -- people who justified mass murder for what they believed to be rational reasons. Many of the Nazis were that way, too. Yes, killing all the Jews and Gypsies was a messy job, but somebody had to do it to purify the Master Race. That was a strategic vision, not a matter of rage or even hatred. (The strategic murder types manipulated rage and hatred to do the job, of course. But they were cold-blooded mass killers, many of them.)
Jean-Paul Sartre was that kind of Stalinist. Sartre was the most famous philosopher in Continental Europe in the last century. But he thought that Marxism was more important than Existentialism, his philosophical brand. Sartre edited a hard-Left magazine in Paris, and managed both to endorse Jozef Stalin when everyone already understood what he was doing, and to switch his editorial support to Mao Zedong when Mao began to kill tens of millions of Chinese in earnest. That was not just a happenstance. Sartre was not a sentimental Leftist. He wasn't self-deceived. He just thought that mass murder was rationally justified to bring about the People's Revolution. That was cold-hearted evil, an even lower Circle of Hell than the one Dante reserved for ordinary murderers.
When we talk about the leaders of totalitarian Communist or Fascist regimes, people like Saddam Hussein, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot, we are mostly talking about strategic mass murderers. I believe Kim Jong-Il may be a strategic mass killer today. He is certainly playing the West for suckers in a very shrewd way. Nobody doubts that Kim has directly caused the death of hundreds of thousands of his own people by starvation, following the example of Mao and Stalin. For Kim, I suspect it was not sheer insanity. It was more likely to be strategic. After Pol Pot was finally caught, confessed, and was convicted, the New York Times reported that he confessed to killing millions of Cambodians, but that his "conscience was clear."
Think about that. People like that exist and come to power. Napoleon had that mind-set -- he could not have doubted for one moment that his desire to conquer Europe would end in millions of deaths. And yet he led a cheering French parade, and is still celebrated for it in French history. (In fact, Jacques Chirac's Foreign Minister wrote a book glorifying Napoleon; which just tells you something about Europe's socialist Ruling Class today).
Saul Alinsky sounds like a Stalinist to me, though we may never know for sure. For one thing, his Rules for Radicals are all tricks that have been used by lynch mob leaders throughout history to enrage people, target a victim, and have him or her be burned or hung. The Rwanda genocide was no doubt led by people who used those ancient demagogic tricks. In the South, white lynch mobs used a lot of Alinsky tricks to enforce Jim Crow, and before that to keep blacks terrorized in slavery. But Alinsky was strategic in recommending his rules -- they were all deliberately practiced "rules" to be used to destroy "the enemy."
We don't know what Alinsky might have done had he come into real power, as his fellow agitators did in Russia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, Indonesia and Cambodia. Don't ever forget that tens of millions of people were killed within living memory, using precisely those mob techniques. We can still see them at work in numerous countries around the world.
As Alinsky wrote this in his Rules for Radicals:
"What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away."
That only makes sense if you believe that tens of millions of your fellow citizens are evil; that the world would be better off without them. Alinsky certainly didn't sound like a touchy-feely liberal, but like a cold, strategic Stalinist. I can't prove that -- fortunately -- because he never achieved the kind of power he sought all his life.
Well, Alinsky mentored a whole generation of radicals, people who are now at the helm of the Democratic Party, in the US media, and in Western universities. It is a virulent plague infecting our body politic. We must hope to outlast them, and never to become like them.
I cannot read minds, and I don't think anyone else can, either. I don't know all the little inner wheels turning inside Obama's mind, or in Axelrod and Rahm and Ezekiel Emanuel (who is apparently their "expert" source on the evils of American medicine).
I do have the impression that another Alinsky disciple, Hillary Clinton, has matured somewhat over her life. People do grow up, sometimes. People do let go of some of their harmful character traits. But I can't tell for sure.
So I would not necessarily try to see Obama as a community organizer in the style of Saul Alinsky. But it would be irrational to deny that there are many close, lifelong relationships between Obama and far-Left radicals, people who are much colder and more strategic than your everyday touchy-feely liberal. They are true Alinskyites.
Stalin is dead. But Stalinism lives because that kind of cold, calculating, destructive "idealism" seems to appeal to a certain personalities. Stalinists don't carry membership cards in the CPUSA any more. They don't come with convenient labels -- "Look, Mom, I'm a Stalinist!" Nor should we go around and loosely allege that so-and-so must be that way. We live under a Constitution that explicitly guarantees free speech and free thought, even if it is abhorrent. Millenarian fanatics are not so unusual in American history. They've been around from the beginning, and yet we have kept our freedoms, most of them, alive and well.
So we walk a fine line. Welcome to decency and civilization. We don't condemn people for their thoughts. Welcome to the world of balance and sanity, where we constantly hope for the best -- while not blinding ourselves to the human capacity to do the worst. We hold people responsible for their deeds, not their thoughts. Tolerance means not overreacting, even to rather freaky folk.
If we lose that fine balance between appropriate caution and overreaction we undermine our civilization. So we cannot overreact.
Don't look for Communists under every bed, but don't be foolish enough to ignore self-proclaimed Marxist Radicals who wish us ill. Keep your faith in the strength and common sense of the American people. Spread the truth, as you see it, and let others express theirs.
The Founders built well. We may have to shore up a few timbers in the ship of state. We need to rediscover the vigorous small press that marked American politics until the monopoly media took over, perhaps fifty years ago; but the New Media are now on the job. Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin and Marshall were all personally acquainted with the same kinds of people we see today. Human nature hasn't changed.
In the last two centuries the biggest power freaks have never enjoyed a permanent victory. This generation has its own meeting with destiny, as John F. Kennedy once said. Each generation has kept the country free, and passed a free land on to the next. That is also our job, and in that we will succeed.