By Joseph Kellard
While I've only read its introduction, liner notes and reviews, "Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe" by Robert Gellately is apparently a book worth highlighting. That's because it seems to attempt to put all three dictators on an equal moral plan and, presumably, links Nazism with communism. Whether Gellately does this fundamentally, instead of through lesser, even superficial parallels, I cannot say.
Yet in the introduction, he notes that his focus is, in part, to dispel the myth of the "good Lenin" -- that is, the communist with so-called good intentions. Moreover, a review in The Economist (Aug. 11) has this encouraging lead paragraph: "In their different ways they were as bad as each other, the three monsters of 20th century Europe. That is an oddly controversial statement. Hitler is almost universally vilified; Lenin remains entombed on Red Square as Russia's most distinguished corpse; and modern Russia is looking more kindly on Stalin's memory."
The review continues: "Anyone who still believes in the myth-assiduously propagated by the Soviet Union and its admirers-of the 'good Lenin' will find the book uncomfortable reading. The author outlines with exemplary clarity Lenin's cruelty, his illegal and brutal seizure of power, his glee in ordering executions, the institution of mass terror as a means of political control and the construction of the first camps in what later became the gulag. 'Far from perverting or undermining Lenin's legacy, as is sometimes assumed, Stalin was Lenin's logical heir,' he writes icily."
One notable passage in the book's introduction comes when Gellately expresses surprise at his discovering the degree of self-sacrifice (his word) that the German and Russian exercised toward the Nazis and communists. This suggests that his book at least touches on the fundamental similarities between the totalitarian ideologies.
Today, as Russia seems bent on continuing to bury the evils of communism-with Putin praising a new history guide that calls Stalin the Soviet Union's "most successful" leader, and with Putin equating Stalin's Great Terror with the allied bombing of Hiroshima-finally and thankfully, more and more books about the evils of communism, some of which draw moral equivalence with Nazism, are being published in the West.
Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.
Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard