His Mentality and His Morals
The Englishman of Gilbert and Sullivan’s era may have been born either a Liberal or a Conservative, but no one was ever born a Communist. Nor is this form of “greatness” ever thrust upon one. Nor is it something to be lightly grabbed, as the periodic party purges throughout the world attest. Becoming a Communist can only be achieved, the party chiefs often declare, through an intense process of self-transformation—a process that may never be relaxed without the risk of sliding back into an earlier condition of being. The psychological and ethical arduousness of making oneself a Bolshevik is also testified to by the Confessions of the Repentant Ex-Comrade which con stitute such a lively branch of modem literature. As part of their Bolshevik discipline, the heroes of Koestler and others had to conquer every personal sentiment in themselves and attain the subjective state of professional executioners. The Communist’s trained readiness to crush his sympathies, and the hallucinations that induce that readiness, cannot, however, be isolated from other aspects of his constructed character. In doing so, the confession literature, written from the point of view of moral disillusionment, tends to portray the Communist as a “sick” human being, rather than as a new coherent entity purposefully constructed out of human material.
The Communist, then, is an invented type into which a small fraction of contemporary humanity has been able to convert itself. This type was brought into the world by Lenin. He was, and is, its creator. We shall discuss later possible differences between the author and his creation. But reading the recent biographies of Lenin by David Shub (Lenin: A Biography) and Bertram Wolfe (Three Who Made a Revolution), one cannot fail to recognize in the personality of the founder of Bolshevism the primordial features of the Communist of today. Here is the man who struggles ceaselessly—”for twenty-four hours of the day” and even in his dreams, Axelrod noted—through organizational plot and counter-plot to grasp unchallenged control of the revolutionary movement, first of Russia then of the entire globe. This man is motivated, Wolfe wisely discerns, not by arrogance or lust for power but by his “unshakeable conviction of his own rightness.” Primarily, he is a man whose every act is impelled by the certainty that he, and he alone, knows what must be done on behalf of the future of the revolution, and hence of mankind.
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