The Mentality of the Totalitarian Revolutionary

Re-reading Doctor Zhivago, I was struck by the following passage:

That’s just the point, Larisa Feodorovna. There are limits to everything. In all this time something definite should have been achieved. But it turns out that those who inspired the revolution aren’t at home in anything except change and turmoil, they aren’t happy with anything that’s on less than a world scale. For them transitional periods, worlds in the making, are an end in themselves. They aren’t trained for anything else, they don’t know anything except that. And do you know why these never-ending preparations are so futile? It’s because these men haven’t any real capacities, they are incompetent. Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. Life itself, the phenomenon of life, the gift of life, is so breath-takingly serious. So why substitute this childish harlequinade of immature fantasies, these schoolboy escapades?

Zhivago’s words here provide an interesting parallel to the observations of Sebasian Haffner from inter-war Germany…


After the insane inflation of the early 1920s was cured by the introduction of the Rentenmark, and the political climate was stabilized under the chancellorship of Gustav Stresemann, people could breathe a sigh of relief:

The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

But…and I think this is a particuarly important point…a return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.


To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.


15 thoughts on “The Mentality of the Totalitarian Revolutionary”

  1. I think, and suspect that this is your point, that we are at a similar stage in our history. We have a ruling class who have been very successful at obtaining the support of those whose daily lives are enriched by the Kardashians and similar folklore. We are divided into three populations; those who are worried and fear the present trend, those who are convinced that our worries are baseless and who are enjoying the cultural chaos of abortion, gay marriage and the repudiation of everything their parents cherished. The third groups is mae up of those who care not about the future beyond the next paycheck or welfare check.

    There is, of course, a fourth group analogous to the young Germans who profited from the wild inflation in the 20s. Many of them are doing very well in currency arbitrage, which is what the stock market is now, and those with
    the big new thing” like facebook which still doesn’t have a business model. Amazon has never made a profit.

  2. How did the anti-Vietnam people cope when all the public excitement died down?


  3. Actually Mrs Davis, most of ’em went rabid anti nuke power, or at least most around Austin in 74-75 did. The pure environmentalism came later after the nuke construction died out in the late 80’s.

  4. I usually agree with Dr. Kennedy, and that’s certainly the case here. The incompetence part certainly struck a chord with me, as that’s what the current administration is best at. In my life I’ve never seen a more incompetent bunch of “leaders”, even during the Carter years. This group is most happy when campaigning; they don’t seem to know how to do anything else and so that’s what they do – campaign for their next “big thing” without bothering to give two thoughts about implementation of the last one. Perhaps we’re lucky in this…..maybe, just maybe, some of these terrible ideas/programs will never get implemented.

  5. Mike K…I think Amazon is clearly a real business, they could show a good profit if they chose to moderate their growth somewhat. The greatest threat to them, I think, is Jeff B’s overly centralized and top-down model of management, which is going to at least constrain their growth, and maybe worse, at some point.

  6. Alinsky certainly bought into and promoted revolution as the goal. No end state except the overthrow of what/who is. “By producing a common enemy, Alinsky is creating a goal for the community, the defeat of that enemy. To say that the community will create their own goal seems backwards considering Alinsky creates the goal of defeating the enemy. Thus, his belief can be seen as too ideological and contradictory because the organization may turn the goal of defeating the common enemy he produced into their main purpose.” [Wikipedia]

    The antiwar folks of the ’60’s certainly embraced environmentalism, but don’t forget feminism, income redistribution and one-worldism (universal “social justice”). In accordance with the Alinsky model, they entered mainstream society as a fifth column, “bottom up, inside out and top down” [Obama’s former “Green Czar”]. Their launching pads were the college humanities, social sciences (especially ethnic studies), and education departments. The progeny of those old radical faculty members have taken their places in numbers large enough to have dominance across most academic fields and most educational institutions and significant presence in many professions. They control the bureaucratic and regulatory organs of a vastly expanded government at every level. Given their lock on the government controlled educational system, their effectiveness in spreading “social justice” statism as an ideology is predictable unless the educational monopoly can be broken.


  7. I am trying to think of the guy from the Chicago 7 who became an insurance agent. At least one protestor became President.

  8. But the status quo now is the collectivist super-state, with all its supporting organs and elements.

    The boomer, “new left” generation that has run the going concern it inherited from the WW2 generation right into the ground, is retiring and starting to die off.

    The blue social model, which depends on and attempts to constantly expand the role of the state, is bankrupt and growing increasingly irrelevant.

    Various environmental scams, phony crises, and predictions of the apocalypse are unraveling as agricultural, energy, and various other hi-tech innovations, (the recent development of a vastly improved, cheaper water purifying system being one example) re-vitalize major sectors of the economy.

    As the edifice of the collective state collapses, and it will, since it is built on falsehoods and irrational theories, the opportunity arises for the opponents of the collectivist ideology to make their case to a public witnessing that implosion all around them.

    That this will be a long, complex, dirty, and exhausting marathon is pretty obvious, but we in this country, and humanity around the world, have faced worse threats with less resources than we have now.

    It would be a terrible shame, and a tragedy for our posterity, if we were to throw up our hands and accept defeat because things are difficult and the task daunting.

    The future belongs to those who will seize it and write its story, never to those who walk away and abandon the field.

    Duty, honor, and country are values worthy of all citizens who wish to live as free people, not just the cadets at West Point.

  9. ” In my life I’ve never seen a more incompetent bunch of “leaders”, even during the Carter years. ”

    I agree and wonder when reality will invade the bubble. I met my new group of students today and I have to try not to show how sorry I feel for them. They know that my era was a “golden age” of medicine. My generation screwed much of this up by being too eager to grab the goodies that LBJ offered as he, like Aneurin Bevan, “filled the doctors’ mouths with gold.” By making early Medicare reimbursement generous, we all bought the package.

    It was never sustainable. Here we are with the results.

  10. Dr. Kennedy: In the early seventies I had a friend who always had financial troubles. We had similar tastes in things, but he indulged himself and actually bought them, while I rarely did. We both loved sports cars. One day he showed up at my house driving a Morgan 4/4, a car we had both fantasized about for a couple years. He told he that he’d bought it the day before. When I asked how he could afford it, he said, “My psychologist told me that if I wanted it bad enough, I’d figure out a way to pay for it”. This story would seem to illustrate the thought process (or lack thereof) of far too many politicians, and individuals for that matter. It’s really just expediency over principle, and it seems to win out just about every time.

    Note….My friend didn’t end up very well off (putting it mildly) and we as a country won’t either.

  11. Veryretired,
    I believe what you stated. I think that there are two major issues that demand our focused, long term attention if we are to turn things around: breaking the virtual government monopoly on education so the indoctrination of statism can be challenged and stopping amnesty in the immigration issue. The first provides the long-term opportunity to change the dynamics of the fight and the second gives us the time to do the first. I would add that significantly delaying the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act is also necessary. I think that reality may be working in our favor on that one. It still requires more effort. Simply having public opinion in that direction is never enough. Once the subsidy checks start flowing, it’s a done deal and single-payer is not long behind. Trading amnesty for improved border security guarantees that any such security will be short term at best and the political base for “social justice” is secured and will keep a lock on education/indoctrination.

    There is such a thing as a tipping point. Usually we recognize it after the fact. Denial is not just a river in North Africa.


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